End of an era: Longtime Scarborough dispatcher retires

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SCARBOROUGH — Eric Berry wanted to keep things simple when he retired June 2 after working as a public safety dispatcher for more than 35 years.

Police Chief Robbie Moulton said there were two things Berry told him he wanted to do on his last day: wear shorts instead of pants and run the 6 p.m. radio test.

But Berry’s colleagues made sure he celebrated his retirement in a much bigger fashion: driving home in an antique fire truck escorted by two police officers.

“He is a great guy. We’re going to miss him,” Moulton said. “He’s been a friend as well as a great employee.”  

Some town employees won’t be missing Berry for long, though, because he will be volunteering with the Scarborough Fire Police. The team of about 10 assists police officers and firefighters with traffic control at planned and emergency events.

Berry is no stranger to volunteering. He joined the all-volunteer Scarborough Fire Department in 1970 at the age of 15 and worked there until about 10 years ago. He is still a gold badge member, which means he is semi-retired, but can go to a fire scene and assist. Berry also served six years as deputy fire chief. 

“You never really get done,” he said. 

Berry spent the last 20 years dispatching on the 4 p.m.-midnight shift, the shift he preferred. What he liked best, he said, was helping people. He also liked the unpredictability of the job.

“You never knew what was going to transpire when you walked in the door,” Berry said. 

He recalled the December 1983 fire that burned the clubhouse at Scarborough Downs. Berry said a security guard at the horse track raced into the building with news of the fire; the blaze had burned the phone lines and the guard had to drive to the public safety building. 

When asked what he wants to do after retirement, Berry, who is known around the station for his sense of humor, smiled and said, “Anything I want.” He also joked he wouldn’t be wearing long pants during the summer.

Berry said he plans on hunting, fishing, working around the house, and maybe doing some part-time work for a friend. 

Moulton said Berry’s retirement also marks the end of the era when most dispatchers were born and raised in Scarborough, which is not really the case anymore. 

Police Department Deputy Chief Marla St. Pierre said, “We are going to have a hard time getting by without his long-term knowledge, his laugh, his smile.”

St. Pierre said Berry was the local “homegrown kid” on the department who started two years after her, when she was a patrol officer. St. Pierre said Berry knew Scarborough like the back of his hand, while she was from Aroostook County and didn’t know Scarborough at all.

She said Berry would often quiz her on the locations of places and sent her to great local landmarks that don’t exist anymore. St. Pierre said Berry knew the area so well he could describe the police officer’s destination in detail: a house would be the third on the left with a green Ford pick-up in the driveway.

Sure enough, she said, , there would be a green pick-up in the driveway when she arrived. 

During Berry’s celebration, there was cake and coffee, along with laughter, hugs and handshakes.

But there was also a serious moment when Berry conducted the daily 6 p.m. radio test, and took the time to say his farewells. 

“I’d like to thank all my friends in the Fire Department, Police Department, public works, Town Hall, and especially my fellow dispatchers,” he said. “… goodbye, and good luck.” 

When he left for the home where he grew up and still lives, police officers and Fire Department personnel surprised Berry by staging an aerial ladder truck arch –which Berry drove through in a 1937 Ford Seagrave antique fire truck.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.

Eric Berry, right, who retired June 2 after working as a dispatcher for more than 35 years, drove home in the Scarborough Fire Department’s 1937 Ford Seagrave antique fire truck after his last day on the job.

Eric Berry says his goodbyes during the 6 p.m. radio test June 2, his last day with the Scarborough Fire Department. Berry was a public safety dispatcher in Scarborough for more than 35 years.