Perry was born in 1910 in Theall and was the third child of five born to Rodolph and Amanda Theall Perry.
As a child, Perry worked on his family farm as a cotton picker. He would also keep the blackbirds out of their fields.
“I would pop a whip,” he said. “Every morning, my father would give me one. And it would make a noise like a gun.”
The Perry children would walk four miles to attend school while living in Theall. Perry remembered having to walk along the levees on certain days.
“They’d milk the cows in the morning and then they let them on the road,” he remembered. “And the cows would chase us. One day, we walked through the canals. She (Perry’s older sister) held my hand and the water went up to my neck.
“The roads were so bad, we’d have to walk the levee,” he continued.
When he was 10, his family moved to Abbeville and they lived on State Street, where Robies is currently located. As a child in the city, he worked as a clerk and delivery boy at Moresi Store.
As he became older, Perry worked at Steen’s Syrup Mill. During the off season, he worked on farms in the country. He also worked on road construction and on buildings in the Vermilion Locks in Intracoastal City.
Perry served in the Army Air Force during 1942-1945 in World War II. While he toured all over Europe, he was mainly stationed in Italy.
“I went to so many big cities,” he said. “We flew into Germany and Austria.”
While in the Army Air Force, Perry did the majority of the fabric work on the airplanes.
“There’s a lot of fabric work on planes,” he said. “When they came in, they were full of holes. I had my patch all ready and I soaked it in acetone to soften it up. I’d slap it on and it’d dry real quick.”
Perry said he also enjoyed painting the airplanes.
Perry said he enjoyed visiting Rome the most. While there, Perry even met Pope Pius XII.
“He said ‘I know you’re American by your uniform,’” Perry said. “And I shook hands with him and he said ‘I wish when you return, a good trip back and that you find your family all well.’”
Perry was home when the war ended and was working at Wood Motors (which later became Bay City Motors).
“The whistles blew and all the church bells rang,” he said of when the war ended. “When World War I ended, I was old enough to remember that we could hear the whistles too.”
In 1946, Perry married Thelma Hoffpauir and had one daughter, Donna.
“She would come to the movies in the afternoon at Frank’s Theatre,” Perry recalled. “I was working and she’d pass. She’d wave to me and I’d wave to her. So, one Sunday after the show, I saw her and said ‘Howdy’ and I stopped her to talk to her. I said ‘What you do Monday?’ She said ‘I come to pick up my sister’ and I said ‘Well, how about while you wait, we go take in a movie?’ That’s how it started.”
Thelma passed away in February of 2008. The two were married 61 years.
In his spare time, Perry loved nature and the outdoors. He had a garden where he’d grow everything from flowers to turnips and cabbage.
He was also a woodworker, building swings, gliders and making bird houses. Perry was known as a “Jack-of-all-trades” and “Mr. Fix-it.”
Perry and his family travelled in their spare time as well. They visited Canada twice, Mexico and 47 of the United States.
Perry said the biggest change he noticed throughout his life were the roads changing from dirt to gravel to paved cement. He worked paving the road from Kaplan to Jefferson Island.
“Keep busy,” Perry said when asked for advice on how to live a life as long as his. “Do things. That’s what I did. And never get angry.”
Did Perry ever think he would live this long?
“Oh, yeah,” he laughed. “And I expect to live much longer.”