Art Perry, 86

Longtime OPRF dean of students

Opinion: Obituaries

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Arthur Reyburn Perry Jr., 86, formerly of Oak Park, died on Nov. 4, 2016. Born on Oct. 31, 1930 to Arthur Reyburn Perry Sr. and Mary Lucille Kahman Perry, he grew up in Davenport, Iowa along with his three younger siblings. 

He attended St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport, where he loved football and was selected as a tackle on the 1948 Des Moines Register All-State High School Football Team.

Awarded a football scholarship by Notre Dame University, he played on the 1949 National Championship Team under legendary coach Frank Leahy. He graduated with honors in 1952 and went on to earn an MA in education. To the end of his life, he maintained a deep commitment to all things Notre Dame.

After college, he studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood and was ordained in the Diocese of Davenport on June 1, 1957. Following his ordination he taught at Assumption High School in Davenport, Iowa. Art's love of working with young people began here.

During his 13 years as a priest, he also served as chaplain at St. Vincent Home from 1957 to 1964 where he brought fun as well as spiritual care, along with an occasional lapse in decorum, to the children there. On one occasion, the director of St. Vincent's, looking out an upstairs window, saw a large tree shaking violently. She rushed outside and, fearing some children might fall, cried out sternly, "Come down from that tree!" She was startled to see the bare legs and sandaled feet of Father Perry exiting the lower branches. He was trying to provide some active play and exercise to the young boys who were missing a father's influence.

On his next assignment, he served as principal for six years at Notre Dame High School in Burlington, Iowa.

In 1970, he requested release from his clerical duties and joined the staff at Oak Park and River Forest High School as a dean of students, where he served until his retirement in 1993. 

He married Suzanne Crane Perry of Burlington in 1970 and became stepfather to her five children. They have one son together. He and Suzanne moved to Miami, Florida after retirement. They returned to the Chicago area in April 2016 and settled into a new life at Casa San Carlo retirement community in Northlake.

Throughout his career, Dean Perry formed lasting bonds with his students. He corresponded with some and was a Facebook friend to many. Even in retirement, he often found opportunities to "interview" high school students about their interests, classes, goals and college plans. His interest in young people, coupled with his mild and unthreatening nature, made it easy for teens to feel comfortable talking with him.

Music was central to his life. He loved to sing and especially to sing his prayers. He and Suzanne were choir members at Ascension Parish in Oak Park and, during their 20 years in Florida, sang with the Schola Cantorum of Little Flower Church in Coral Gables. They were fixtures at daily Mass at St. Hugh Parish in Coconut Grove, Florida.

The night before he died, his children brought their instruments and surrounded Art with music: Songs and lullabies he sang to the children when they were small, filled the room. These simple tunes, sung in rounds and in parts, made him happy. 

 

In addition to his wife, Suzanne, Art Perry is survived by his stepchildren, Melissa Boldebuck ( Richard Lambert), David Walz (Nancy Peterson), Theresa Castro (Jim Hubacek), Brian Walz (Cristi Belmonte), Mary Walz Lluhi (Joe); his son, Arthur R. Perry III (Jennifer Mack); his brother, Richard Kahman Perry; his two sisters, Mary Lu Soto and Hallie McNamara; 10 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and many loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his grandson, Scott David Walz.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 3 until 8 p.m. at Gibbons Funeral Home, 134 S. York Road, Elmhurst and Monday, Nov. 14 from 9:30 a.m. until time of Mass of Christian Burial, 10 a.m., at Villa Scalabrini Chapel, 480 N. Wolf Road, Northlake. 

Private interment will take place at Sacred Heart Cemetery, Burlington, Iowa.

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