Berlin Remembers Sonny Derrickson

BERLIN — Town officials reflected this week after the passing of Mansfield “Sonny” Derrickson last Saturday.

“He was very active … He was instrumental in a lot of things,” said Councilman Elroy Brittingham, a friend and neighbor of Derrickson’s.

As owner of Sonny’s Barbershop on Flower Street since 1958, Derrickson developed a reputation as a leader in the community and fostered pet projects like affordable housing in Berlin and pedestrian safety on roads.

“His last great push was to make sure there were sidewalks down Flower Street,” said Police Chief Arnold Downing.

As for his goal of bringing affordable housing to Berlin, Downing asserted that Derrickson was involved in facilitating the creation of the Isaiah Fassett and Bay Terrace Garden apartments.

Derrickson also served the community through volunteer work with Atlantic General Hospital, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and other organizations located in and around Berlin. Additionally, he sat on both the town’s Board of Ethics and the Board of Zoning Appeals for more than 15 years.

Even when he wasn’t serving the town directly, he attended town hall meetings regularly, rarely missing any until very recently, when health problems over the last few years began to take their toll.

“He was a fixture at council meetings for many years,” said Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen.

Mayor Gee Williams also remarked on Derrickson’s commitment to Berlin.
“He’s been involved in the town as long as I can remember,” Williams said.

The mayor described Derrickson as an “excellent people person” and a “leader in the African-American community of Berlin.” However, Williams went on to say that, while Derrickson’s support of his neighborhood was total, he also viewed the town as a collective body and endeavored to improve Berlin at large.

“He was always interested in his community and the whole town,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.

“I can’t imagine anyone who knew him didn’t like him genuinely as a human being,” added Williams.

Downing called him “a great friend” and “a historian for the town of Berlin.” He revealed that Derrickson offered his barber services to patients of the Berlin Nursing Home for many years and that his business was incredibly popular with residents.

“He was the barber in east Berlin for decades,” Williams said.