City employee Johnny Tolliver dies due to work-related accident, is remembered for his generous nature

Johnny Tolliver, a 52-year-old supervisor in the city of Berkeley’s Zero Waste division, died Monday afternoon due to an injury sustained from a work-related accident.

He had served the city of Berkeley for 25 years, according to an email from Charles Burress, assistant to Mayor Tom Bates.

According to Vermell Westbrooks, a friend of Tolliver’s who knew him for more than 30 years, Tolliver will be remembered for his giving nature and reliability.

“He would always be a man of his word,” Westbrooks said. “If he said he was going to do something, he was going to do it.”

Westbrooks recalled Tolliver’s generous nature in helping her move “from apartment to apartment” during her time in California.

“I was buying a new sofa for my house, and he came over with his truck,” Westbrooks said, adding that his kindness saved her moving expenses.

Westbrooks also recalled Tolliver’s forgiving nature, spirituality, wisdom and likeability, noting that he served as a pillar of strength for his family.

According to a statement released by the Tolliver family, Tolliver is survived by two sons and three sisters. His family — including “a host of nieces and nephews” — remembers him as a devoted son and adoring father and brother who was highly involved in his church and local community.

“(He was) widely known for his infectious smile — which warmed the hearts of anyone he came into contact with,” said the statement.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko noted that Tolliver’s supervisors commended Tolliver as a good worker.

According to Chakko, Tolliver and his co-worker were on their regular pick-up route in the Berkeley Hills when Tolliver had an accident involving their garbage truck.

Tolliver died at a local hospital from an injury he sustained from the accident, according to Burress’ email.

“It’s a very sad day for the city,” Chakko said, adding that Bates reached out personally to the Tolliver family to offer his condolences.

According to Chakko, it has been a long time since an incident like this — in which a city employee, who is not a police officer or firefighter, died from a work-related incident — has taken place.

“We don’t remember the last time something like this happened, so it’s pretty exceptional,” Chakko said.

The details of the accident are still under investigation, but according to Chakko, it was caused by “a number of different components.”

“We don’t know what we’ll find, but safety is always our top concern,” Chakko said, regarding any possible safety measures that will be implemented due to the findings of the investigation.“When we go through this, if there’s something we find that we need to establish, we would do that, but we do that everyday.”

According to the Tolliver family’s statement, the funeral arrangements for Tolliver are yet to be made because of the ongoing investigation regarding the circumstances of his death.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin.