Berry remembers 'Growing Up in North Madison'
Thursday, June 20, 2013 11:00 AM
It was after three brain surgeries that Madison native Richard Berry became a whiz at memorizing U.S. presidents, state capitals and general historical facts.
He even taught himself to write backwards and upside down.
"Just to prove to myself that I could," said Berry, who was 44 years old when doctors discovered a massive tumor in his brain.
The new talents assisted in his recovery but also helped open a cavern of forgotten memories - which he feared were gone for good.
He describes it best as taking an eraser to a pencil drawing of a circle, except the circle represented the memory portion of his brain.
Now more than 20 years since his first surgery, his memory is continuing to recover, and Berry has written and released a 380-page book that features scores of poems about his life in Madison.
The book, "Growing Up in North Madison," is available at Village Lights Bookstore. His friends and family contributed a few of the works as well. It's his second book.
The collection includes details about his father, who served under Gen. George Patton in World War II, classmates, family, friends and just about every other person, place or thing that Berry can remember pertaining to his hometown.
"I tried to mention every person that I ever knew," he said.
Berry was born in 1945 and lived most of his life in Madison before moving to northern Indiana to be closer to his grandchildren in 1999.
He used his family, old friends and acquaintances to verify facts and fill in memory gaps while writing the new book. In fact, several of the new poems were written on request.
"Full of ambition and a desire to make our mark, ready to take on the world from daylight to dark," writes Berry, recalling his Madison High School Class of 1963.
While in Madison, Berry worked for 30 years at IKE as a draftsman, and he also volunteered as a Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy.
As a youngster, he was an extra in "Some Came Running," the 1958 film starring Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra. His recollection of the film appears more than once in his new book.
"Meeting everyone of the stars at least once, I think Shirley MacLaine kept my attention most," he writes.
Berry now lives and works in Bluffton, but plans to move back to Madison in the near future.
"We're at a point right now where we can't wait to get back," he said.
Berry dedicated the book to his grandchildren, or as he calls them, "the magnificent seven." He published the works because he wanted to give his grandchildren and great-grandchildren a good starting point for family research.
"The primary reason was to leave as much behind as I could," he said.
Writing and publishing two books is just one of the many accomplishments Berry has logged since his surgeries. He has taken college courses, continued his love of sign language and cars and explored many other hobbies.
"I've done a lot of things since my brain surgery, because it just kind of slapped me upside the head and reminded me that I won't be around forever." he said.
Berry will be at Village Lights Bookstore Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m.