NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Days after his 22-year-old son died of an apparent drug overdose, the husband of Nashville’s mayor was adamant that their son’s death doesn’t define the life of a young man who was warm, sensitive, tolerant and inquisitive.
Bruce Barry gave an energetic eulogy for his son, Max Barry, in front of more than 550 friends, family members and dignitaries Tuesday at the Belcourt Theatre, where many attendees spilled into a second room to watch the memorial service on a movie screen. Mayor Megan Barry didn’t give a speech during the service.
Max Barry died Saturday night near Denver. Toxicology results from an autopsy aren’t expected for about three weeks, said Dan Pruett, chief deputy coroner of Jefferson County, Colorado.
Bruce Barry took the stage at the theater unannounced, pulled out a baseball cap and put it on backward like his son would. He drew laughter and tears with his stories of Max, who he said loved music, comedy, adventure — and breakfast. He wasn’t competitive in youth sports and would rather “meet” the other team than “beat” them, Bruce Barry said.
“The point I really want to make here is that the circumstances last Saturday in Denver tell the story of his death, and not the story of his life,” said Bruce Barry, a Vanderbilt University professor. “And the person he really was is not the person that was there on Saturday.”
Max Barry graduated in June from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and dreamed of a career in music and radio. He was occasionally a DJ for the university’s radio station.
Barry died at someone else’s private residence in Jefferson County, Colorado, near Denver, where he had recently moved.
Two other people were in the home at the time, and one called 911, saying his friend was incoherent. First responders then arrived but couldn’t revive Max Barry, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jenny Fulton said.
The sheriff’s office can’t confirm the cause of death until toxicology results are finished, Fulton said, but the death is not considered suspicious.
Longtime friend Tommy Prine said Max Barry had a unique warmth about him.
“He himself had a heart the size of a mountain, a free spirit much like the animals that roam this world, the stubbornness of a long winter and a smile like sunshine breaking through a stormy cloud,” Prine said during the service. “Only a person with a force of a character like Max can leave this big of a hole in my heart, in everyone’s heart.”
Prine’s father, Nashville-based folk singer John Prine, sang during the service, which was also attended by Americana artists Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.
Megan Barry was sworn in as Nashville’s first female mayor in September 2015 with her husband and son by her side. Max Barry bear-hugged his mom after the oath of office, sat just to her right as she gave her inaugural speech and kissed her afterward.
“Max was our beloved boy. He made us laugh and he made us crazy,” his obituary says. “We will never hear him say momma or pops again. We will never dance at his wedding or celebrate another milestone with him. But we will remember him for the sweet, sweet soul that he was.”