Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

A family paradigm for us all

13th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

Arising at 4:00 in the morning after retiring at 3:10 is hardly anyone’s cup of tea, but it enabled me to roll away from the rectory at 4:29 and take a 6:15 flight out of Love Field in Dallas. Dozing in and out the whole way with a stop in Albuquerque and Los Angeles—thank God, no change of plane—I was in Oakland, California at 10:10.

Dr. James Perry, D.D.S., the youngest brother of Bishop Harold Perry, D.D., S.V.D., had lost Earline, his wife of 55 years, on July 8, but it would take three weeks to get all the family together for a memorial service that finally happened on July 28.

“It was a terribly lonely time for me,” James confided to me a few days after the memorial service. “I also really miss Dick and Millie Bean who died just months apart.”

I first met Earline in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the summer of 1953 while on vacation after philosophy studies at St. Augus­tine Major Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Standing on Louisiana Avenue in front of the Sacred Heart gymnasium where popular “Teen Town” was going on, I was approached by a lively teenager.

Saying, “You walk like a soldier,” she began to mimic my steps in soldierly fashion, much to my wonderment. The next time I met this outgoing teen named Earline, it was a couple of decades later and she was the wife of Dr. James Perry, D.D.S.

Rooted in Acadiana epicenter St. Martinville, Louisiana where she helped with the family farm animals and crops, Earline’s ascent to the American Dream began with her nuptials to James during his senior year in dental school at Howard University.

Firstborn Curtis, then Linda were born at Otis Air Force Base in Bourne, Massachusetts where James was stationed until they moved to Oakland in April 1960. Two years later, Lisa’s arrival completed the family while James took over the office that had been used by his brother, Dr. Fred Perry, D.D.S., in 1946 until his death in 1959.

While his father James gradually eased into retirement, Curtis took up the mantle and has continued the legacy of excellent and compassionate family dentistry since 1983. He grew up in Oakland, California and attended Bishop O’Dowd High School.

As any doting father and mother would wish, Curtis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from California State University, Hayward, a Bachelor in Dental Science and a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the Univ­ersity of California, San Francisco Medical Center, in 1983. Thus he maintains the family tradition.

In such an atmosphere, Earline ruled the large, beautiful home nestled near the top of the Fruitvale section of the picturesque Oakland hills, towering due north of Oakland Bay with its numerous bridges. Her husband and children always came first, but she still found time to engage in ceramic art, some pieces of which are now family heirlooms.

Earline was also a fixture in family card games and playing bridge with “the girls” at their weekly lunch gatherings. “Also, she was the one with the green thumb,” James observed, “tending the flowers, the citrus and other fruit trees. Especially, she was the one who pointed where to plant the heavily-bearing fig tree someone gave us.”

Until she was slowed by severe allergies and eventually by chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD), Earline volunteered as Treasurer for 25 years for the Northern California Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Assoc­iation.

Earline’s memorial was also a painful reminder for James’ nephew Craig, niece Connie Kennedy Gordon, her husband Michael and their daughters, Carley and Jaeda. Their mother, Verlie Mae Perry Kennedy, the younger of James’ sisters, died January 25, 2011, three weeks after James had undergone life-saving surgery on a blocked aorta.

Rounding out the immediate family were Curtis, his wife Kimberly and children Ashley and Aaron; Linda, her husband Patrick Gordon and their daughter Alexandria “Alex”; Lisa, her husband Bruce Hayek and their children Elise and Daniel.

“God made us greedy for life and greedy for love, and we can never get enough of either,” I often say. Conse­quen­tly, the 75 years of Earline’s life, although appreciable compared to the American lifespan of just a few decades ago, don’t seem to be nearly enough for a dear one, and mother in particular. We always want more life, more love.

“Our hearts are restless, oh God, and they will never find rest until they rest in you,” sighed the great St. Augustine. That is the ultimate goal of the American dream.

This article was originally published in the August 13, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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