Hundreds gathered at the National Cathedral this morning for the funeral service for former D.C. first lady Effi Barry.
The two-hour Episcopal Mass featured tributes from ex-husband Marion S. Barry Jr., son Christopher Barry, At-Large Councilmember David Catania, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, and Mayor Adrian Fenty. Also in attendance: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and a number of other councilmembers.
After organ preludes from Brahms, Barber, and Mendelssohn, a reading, and a lovely “My Desire” from soprano Karen Wiggs Wilbanks, Catania spoke about Effi Barry’s efforts to encourage organ and tissue donation in D.C., and recalled their first meeting after she returned to the District in 2004. “She was easy to adore,” he said. “She was honest and authentic.” Gray followed with a tribute to her work on HIV/AIDS issues—-particularly in east-of-the-river communities—-which Gray was familiar with from his work with the Covenant House and the Department of Human Services.
Gray remembered a phone call he received from Barry shortly before her death; from her room at Johns Hopkins, she was concerned about the status of some grants for city AIDS organizations. “I said to her, ‘Why don’t we worry about Effi?'” Gray said. “But I knew that wasn’t going anywhere.”
Fenty recalled Barry as a woman “unusual not only for the role she played but for also they way she played it.”
After longtime family confidante Linda Greene gave a scripture reading, Christopher Barry delivered an upbeat and surprisingly lengthy tribute to his mom. “I really can’t say I feel any sadness,” he began. “Me and my mother have a bond that not even death can break.” One line in particular got an ovation: “I don’t ask God, why did this happen? I just thank him that he gave me 27 years.”
Marion Barry paid tribute to his ex-wife who “had the courage of David…the wisdom of Solomon…the strength of Samson.” Barry recounted his decision to run for mayor in 1978 and asking Effi whether she wanted to do it. “She said, ‘I don’t know much about politics, but I’m your wife, took these vows.’ That’s the sort of woman she was.”
Referring to “those difficult times on 1990,” Barry said he counted on her loyalty during his prosecution for the infamous crack bust. “She said, Marion, I’m your wife, joined at the hip. I’m gonna be in the courtroom every day from the time it opens till the time it closes.’…Thank God for that.”
Christopher Barry never mentioned his father, but after both Barrys left the podium, they shared a deep embrace to the crowd’s applause.