2009-06-25 / Obituaries

Hugh Berberich Remembered as One of the World's Greats

by Eric Gross

Hugh Berberich of Kent is being remembered this week as a giant of a man. Hugh Berberich sings the National Anthem at Shea Stadium last year. Hugh Berberich of Kent is being remembered this week as a giant of a man. Hugh Berberich sings the National Anthem at Shea Stadium last year. Hugh Berberich is being remembered this week as a giant of a man—a man dedicated to his family, his profession, and his community.

Berberich, who had just turned 63, passed away unexpectedly on June 10 at his Hill and Dale Country Club home in Kent, leaving his wife of 41 years, Janet, his sons, Christopher and Alexander, and scores of friends, family members, and students in mourning.

Berberich was described as a "musician's musician." Over the years he had composed, performed, and written many musical selections.

Berberich sang at the White House for President Lyndon Johnson in 1969. He performed a solo at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, and sang the National Anthem at more than 160 Mets games starting in 1986.

Berberich served as organist and musical director at St. John's Church in Mahopac. He founded and directed the Candlelight Concert tour in Mahopac, and over the years produced dozens of recordings, including classical, pop, rock, blues, Christmas, ethnic, and solo performances.

Chris Berberich remembered his dad as the "most creative, alive person I have ever met. He lived for his family. His creativity was infused in everything he achieved, from making us Halloween costumes to building things in the house. Family projects became team affairs because my father was family-oriented."

Chris recalled his dad's love for nature, the arts, and education: "He was people-oriented. Dad touched the lives of a lot of people. That was evident when more than 500 mourners attended his wake."

Alex called his dad, "my best friend. He never judged us, but supported my brother and me in our life's goals. He was a life force. I am still in a fog but I do know that the world has lost one of the great performers of all time."

Chris said his dad "lived life to the fullest. Whether conducting a choir in Mahopac or singing before audiences at Carnegie Hall or Shea Stadium, dad loved people. He also was a lover of the outdoors who saved countless wild animals over the years who were in danger."

At the time of his death, Berberich was employed as a professor at Iona College. The academic also taught at Hofstra University, Westchester Community College, and Manhattan College. He founded the Iona Singers, as well, as served as choral director at the Manhattan School of Music.

Berberich performed on many commercial recordings and telecasts with the New York Philharmonic, as well as with Paul McCartney.

A niece's note of condolence sent to the family last week summed up Berberich's personality. It reads: "As a kid having Hugh as an uncle was magical. We didn't simply sled down hills—with Hugh we had intricate bobsled runs. No one could make you laugh like he did. Till this day, I can't go through a toll booth without remembering Hugh talking in Chinese to the toll taker with Cracker Jack tattoos all over his face!"

The family has requested donations be made in Berberich's memory to either the Putnam County Humane Society or the Putnam County Land Trust.

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