On the 29th of December 2013, a jogger collapsed in New York City, without identification, and lay in intensive care for a week as a photo was circulated with hopes that someone would recognize a face obstructed by a lattice of tubes.
“Sad update,” tweeted Leslie Albrecht of DNAinfo.com in New York City — @ReporterLeslie on Twitter. “Rynn Berry, the #vegan author who collapsed while jogging in Prospect Park, has died.”
It’s hard to believe it was really Rynn.
There’s one redeeming element in it all: Rynn left happily, gently, jogging in the park. Rynn loved to run and had finished a marathon.
Yet trying, as human nature invariably prompts, to make sense of it all, I recalled those geese, targeted as municipal enemies and rounded up from Prospect Park, never to return, and imagined Rynn having gone to find them.
I can’t imagine the North American Vegetarian Society’s Summerfest without Rynn’s talks. Or lunchtime without the chance to sit down and go over ideas and PowerPoint features—three years ago, we both joined the century and started creating slideshows. Rynn would ask about people I’d seen recently: what they were writing, and how various people’s ideas differed or coalesced. Rynn had a sense of where discourse fit into a greater scheme, was fully present during conversations, and, in one-to-one discussions, listened more than talked.
But Rynn did speak out, and embraced the role of a public activist. Many thousands of people heard Rynn speak in New York and other cities. And hundreds will miss Rynn on a personal level.
Vegan-organic advocate Harold Brown called Rynn “one of the most outstanding examples of kindness I have had the pleasure of experiencing.”
It’s true. Rynn Berry carried great intelligence with ease and a quiet grace, and demonstrated the full measure of a human being which surfaces in support for others.
In conference workshops, Rynn could revive the thoughts of Leonardo DaVinci, the Buddha, or Pythagoras by offering scripts and inviting people to play their roles, so that within minutes, one really got a feel for the various ways they applied ethics within and beyond humanity. Questions would be answered in fabulous detail, for Rynn knew the languages of original works; thus, for example, when examining a biblical word, Rynn could explain its sense in Aramaic. Rynn’s love of languages came from an abiding interest in uncovering the truth of things. An author or contributor to several books, Rynn is perhaps best known for writing Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover (Pythagorean Books, 2004; introduction by Martin Rowe), which revealed that particular image of Hitler as propaganda.
Rynn died in the early afternoon of Thursday, 9 January.
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
Rynn would have been 69 on the 31st of this month.
A brief addition on 16 January 2014: Bob LeRoy, R.D., Nutrition Advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society and founder of the Plant-based Prevention Of Disease (P-POD) project, wrote a note on Rynn’s public obituary that speaks to me with special strength about Rynn, and with Bob’s permission, I post it here.
Our colleague & friend Rynn Berry taught us all a great deal about Ahimsa via how he conducted himself & communicated. His demeanor was always humble & gracious, & he never sought out the limelight. He continually throughout his lifetime built upon his unusually broad range & depth of scholarly knowledge as a historian. Though he very generously shared that fairly unique expertise on countless occasions, there was never a moment when he conveyed any sense of proud self-importance. His passing is a profoundly sad loss, & his kindness, activism & teaching will truly be missed by our extended community.
— Bob LeRoy, Asheville, North Carolina, January 2014
|Book jacket source: VegSource.com. For Veggie Pride, see link. Quoted poem: William Cullen Bryant, Thanatopsis. Correction note: This piece originally stated that Rynn collapsed on the last day of 2013. Chris Suzuki has pointed out that some reporters incorrectly provided that date.
Simply beautiful, Lee. Thanks for writing one of the best tributes I have ever read, to a man I was excited to meet a second time around at this year’s 40th anniversary Summerfest. We shared a love for language roots (word etymology) and ancient civilizations. I was sooo looking forward to discussing these topics with him, one on one, this summer. Thankfully, I recorded his Summerfest presentation I attended in 2013, so I’ll have Rynn with me in that manner.
And yes, I also imagine he’d be not merely looking for the geese removed from Prospect Park, as you wrote…, but that he has, indeed, found his soul merging with theirs, now far removed from the irreverent coldness of this realm.
I didn’t know him but I can see that I am the less for that. RIP Mr. Berry and thank you for all you did.
The article linked at DNAinfo.com had a comment section underneath it, but that section was removed after an insensitive (and, of course, anonymous) person made a comment about Rynn’s age and diet. Although we can’t know exactly what occurred (`cardiac arrest` happens to everyone who dies), I spoke with a Registered Nurse today who said that a cardiac event could be brought on for a winter runner with an asthmatic condition, because the breathing passages are constricted in the cold, so breathing requires that much more energy, in turn making more work for the heart. The RN said that if the inhaler hadn’t been replaced in a while, that also could have been a contributing factor. Again, this is not to speculate on the precise circumstances of Rynn’s collapse on New Year’s Eve; but it makes little sense to try to connect it with diet, given that the American Dietetic Association cites data indicating fully vegetarian diets reduce the risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some cancers.
Thanks for the warm tribute. Rynn was unique and is certainly missed.
I enjoyed very much reading your tribute to Rynn. As his admirer and friend who would talk to him daily for hours, and even several times a day, either in person or not, I had the honor to experience a genius at work when Rynn was creating and sharing his literary inventions and when he was putting in practice how to be Radically Kind. You captured in your tribute Rynn`s true essence: “Rynn left happily, gently, jogging in the park”, “Rynn having gone to find the rounded up geese”, “Rynn had a sense of where discourse fit into a greater scheme, was fully present during conversations, and, in one-to-one discussions, listened more than talked”, “Rynn did speak out, and embraced the role of a public activist”, “Rynn Berry carried great intelligence with ease and a quiet grace, and demonstrated the full measure of a human being which surfaces in support for others”, “Rynn’s love of languages came from an abiding interest in uncovering the truth of things”. I could not find words or a better way to describe Rynn. I am grateful to you for
masterfully doing so.
Reblogged this on Vegan Place and commented:
Happy Birthday to Rynn on the 31st of January…How delightful that the idea of designating this date World Vegetarian History Day is starting to stick!
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