A former Butler County Veterans Service commissioner who helped lead the board through difficult times after a standout military career has been named the vet board’s Veteran of the Year.
Bob Perry was nominated by Commissioner Bruce Jones from the AMVETS Post 1983.
“There was nobody that was not going to vote for him because we all love him. He is a great guy,” Jones said. “It was seconded before I could hardly finish saying it.”
Perry, 88, served for 10 years on the vet board before retired Butler County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Oney replaced him with Commissioner Dave Smith in 2016. He and former vet board president Danny Biondo were instrumental in transforming the once-dysfunctional and hostile board, largely by ousting former executive director Curt McPherson.
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McPherson was accused of bullying staff and racial slurs, something that forced a $20,000 settlement with a former employee who threatened to sue.
Since he left the board he had been caring for his wife Bunny, who suffered from dementia for about 10 years and was wheelchair-bound, until she passed away in March. He says he still found time, with support from his son, Bob and daughter-in-law, Mary, to work at the West Chester VFW as a service officer and chaplain.
“I’m surprised and humbled by it,” Perry said.
He told the Journal-News he wasn’t sure how he was nominated by AMVETS, since he doesn’t feel he does a lot with that post.
“He’s just being modest for one thing, I look up to the guy. When I started searching into getting my name up to be a commissioner and all, he was one of the first ones to come to me and say if you need help or guidance,” Jones said. “He comes to all of our meetings and gives input.”
Commissioner Dave Smith agreed Perry has been an asset to veterans community.
“His resume as far as helping people is very, very strong,” Smith said. “He’s very well qualified and he brings those qualities to everyone he meets. He should be canonized.”
Perry grew up in Indianapolis and embarked on a pre-med course at Butler University when the Korean War began . He said 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 became an officer 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 began in 1956. Next, he spent 15 months on the ground in Vietnam and returned in the early 1970s 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.
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It took Perry four years of night school to earn a degree from the Detroit College of Law, and he practiced law for 23 years after that.
“At first glance Bob seems like your average, ordinary person, and then when you scratch the surface and look at what he’s done, it’s phenomenal, it’s exceptional,” vet board President Chuck Weber said. “That’s enough for three lifetimes in the case of some people. So he is definitely the most qualified person I know for this honor.”
Commissioner Tom Jeffers, who served with Perry on the commission, also praised the selection.
“I think it was an excellent choice,” Jeffers said. “For the two years I was with him at the commission, great leadership. Wants to make sure everything is good for veterans. Bob is just an all around good individual.”
Perry’s son is a retired Marine, and all five of his grandsons are also in the military, including three in the Army, one in the Marines and one in the Air Force.
Perry was one of three veterans nominated for this distinction and he will be honored today at the annual Veterans Day event at the Colligan Lodge in Hamilton. Perry was also honored three years ago as the grand marshal of the West Chester Twp. Memorial Day parade.
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