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Roy G. Berkeley

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Roy G. Berkeley 1935-2009 SHAFTSBURY Roy Gellen Berkeley, 73, a resident of Shaftsbury for 36 years, died on Friday, April 24, 2009, at the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation in Bennington, of his seventh cancer since the age of 24. He was born in New York City on June 2, 1935, the eldest son of Lewis and Hilda Gellen Berkeley, and was raised in Washington, D.C. Roy had a varied career. After receiving his B.A. from Columbia College in 1956, he worked briefly for the New York Post as assistant to the News Editor, then was editor of the Long Island Post (no relation to the former). During his twenties, too, he worked for the Port of New York Authority in its photography department, and wrote thrillers, westerns, and adventure books under 14 different pseudonyms. He also did graduate work in American history at Columbia University and in political science at The New School for Social Research. Early in life, he had taught himself to play the guitar, and in 1959 was the first folksinger to sing at a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village (the Gaslight). He also performed at the first Newport Festival, and throughout the U.S. at colleges and in coffeehouses. As one of three members of The Old Reliable String Band, he made an album for Folkways Records in 1962; it is now in the Smithsonian Folkways archive. He also made a recording for Innisfree Records in 1979 and another LP entitled "Folk and Country Songs of the FDR Years" for his own record company, Longview Records, in 1980. He taught American history through folk music at a variety of educational institutions: at The New School for Social Research in New York City; at the graduate school's summer program at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.; at Southern Vermont College; and at P.S.3 in New York City. With his interest in history, and his ability to acquire and retain information, it is perhaps understandable that he was a big winner on TV's "Jeopardy!" in 1971 -- unfortunately before being allowed to return, time after time, and become a Ken Jennings millionaire. Roy's winnings, however, enabled the Berkeleys to build their house in Shaftsbury in the early 1970s. He liked to think of himself as a "story-teller," through his teaching, folksinging, professional photography, and writing. In 1994, the only book written under his own name -- A Spy's London -- was published in Britain by Pen & Sword, the preeminent publisher of military and intelligence history in the U.K. This book deals with 136 sites in London having to do with spies and spycatchers. The sites are arranged in walks: "history masquerading as a guidebook," Roy was fond of saying. For 15 years, he was a Deputy Sheriff in the Bennington County Sheriff's Department. More recently, he was certified by the National Rifle Association to teach firearms safety, pistol, and personal protection in the home. He sat on various boards -- being appointed by Governor Kunin in 1985 to Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Board, and serving as head of the board of directors of Pownal's newly opened Museum of Black World War II History. He is survived by his loving wife of 43 years, Ellen Perry Berkeley; by Roscoe (their formerly feral cat); by his brother, Arthur of Las Cruces, N.M.; by nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, and cousins; and by many friends who will treasure the memory of his intellect, his humor, his loyalty, and his steadfast devotion to ideals he considered worthy. FUNERAL NOTICE: Burial at the Center Shaftsbury Cemetery was private. A public celebration of his life, to which all are invited, will be held on Saturday, June 6, 2009, 3 to 6 p.m., at the Mahar Funeral Home in Bennington. Gifts honoring Roy's memory may be made to the Bennington Rescue Squad, the Manchester Music Festival, and/or the Museum of Black WWII History. Gifts should be sent to the Mahar Funeral Home, 628 Main Street, Bennington, VT. 05201.
Published in Bennington Banner on Apr. 30, 2009
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