Former Butler County Veterans Service Commissioner Bob Perry who leaves behind a legacy of “faithful service” to veterans died last weekend.
Perry, 91, was appointed to the county veterans board in 2006 and served for 10 years, fighting to try and right what was then considered a “dysfunctional” organization for much of that time. He was named Veteran of the Year in 2019 and grand marshal of the West Chester Twp. VFW Memorial Day parade in 2016.
Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Noah Powers, who oversees the veterans commission, told the Journal-News Perry was a champion for veterans.
“He gave a lot of faithful service, he was a guy who was committed to the cause,” Powers said. “I always liked Bob, I thought he was a good person to work with. We’ll all miss him, he was a special guy he really was.”
Perry grew up in Indianapolis and had embarked on a pre-med course at Butler University when the Korean War broke out. He told the Journal-News previously his sense of patriotism “fired up” and he left college after a year and a half and joined the Navy. He won an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, and ultimately ended up a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines flying helicopters.
His first tour of duty was a “black operation” between the Philippines and Vietnam, before the war officially broke out in 1956. Next, he spent 15 months on the ground in Vietnam and returned in 1970 or ‘71 when the war was winding down.
A fourth mission sent him on a cruise through the Mediterranean for seven months. In total, he was “out of country” four times over three and a half years.
It took Perry four years worth of night school to earn his law degree from the Detroit College of Law, and he practiced law for 23 years after that.
He didn’t know he was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, but he told the Journal-News previously he retired after he was representing a client in a particularly nasty divorce and on the seventh and last day of trial, he forgot the man had taken the stand that morning.
On the vet board Perry and former commissioner Danny Biondo, who died two years ago, tried several times to oust a previous executive director after complaints about his bullying, alleged racial slurs and other accusations were raised by employees. The other three commissioners who sat on the board then staunchly backed the director. After a lawsuit over the racial slurs was threatened, he retired.
Perry also fought for former executive director Caroline Dineen when she briefly resigned because one of the former commissioners created a hostile work environment for her. She returned after that member resigned under pressure. She told the Journal-News “it’s a huge loss to the veteran community, Bob was regardless of the support I got from him professionally he was just a wonderful person who made an impact.”
Perry and current board members Tom Jeffers and Chuck Weber were also instrumental in capping the commissioners’ salaries — the board gets a new or reappointed member every year, and that person used to automatically get a two percent raise over the last new appointee’s salary — setting a travel policy, commissioning a salary survey and beefed up outreach. The goal was to preserve as much money to help veterans possible and reach as many as they could to let them know help is available.
Jeffers said Perry was also active in the West Chester VFW and Hamilton AMVETS posts, he recalled Perry was always willing to help anyone at any time and “was outgoing and honest, he was very honest.” He said he talked to him a month ago and he had some health issues “but he was just being normal Bob, he was in great spirits.”
“Bob was one of the best individuals, on the commission and other things,” Jeffers said. “Bob was just a great, great guy.”
The current board has all new members who work together as one and have increased the number of veterans served from 4,808 in 2013 to 6,673 in pre-pandemic 2019. Even in 2020, when no in-person appointments could be held with veterans due to the coronavirus, the board served 5,792 vets.
Commissioner Mark Applegate broke down a bit when discussing his good friend “he was chaplain of our VFW Posts 7696 and a very loved member of that organization and he will always be, he’s a part of us.”
Applegate said the funeral will be Monday, Jan. 23 at Center Point Church, 5962 Hamilton Mason Road. The visitation starts at 10:30 a.m. and the service starts at noon in Room 214. He said he believes Perry will be interred at Annapolis with his beloved wife Bunny.
Newly elected vet board President Bruce Jones never served with Perry on the board but said he was mentor none-the-less.
“If half of us live our life half the way he did we’ll accomplish a heck of a lot in a lifetime,” Jones said. “He was an amazing guy.”
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