The van was packed, and we were ready to head back south to Florida after spending the Christmas holidays with our families in Cape Girardeau. Wife Lila got the word that Sis-in-Law Dee Perry was getting ready to add to the John Perry family.
She said “Florida can wait.”
Only after William “Wyatt” Perry arrived on December 29, 1993, could the wheels start turning.
The visit every parent fears
John said that when he looked out the door and saw the coroner standing there that it was going to be bad news. Wyatt had been killed in the pre-dawn hours in a car crash. He was 26.
William Wyatt Perry of Cape Girardeau died Monday, March 16. He was 26. Wyatt was born in Cape Girardeau on December 29, 1993. He was raised in Jackson and graduated from Jackson High School. He proudly served in the United States Marine Corps where he received an honorable discharge.
Wyatt was the baby of the family and with that came the privilege of having many nicknames. He was lovingly known as Wyatt Earp, Gah-wy, Prince Harry and Bjorn Ironsides. Though a man of many names, be was also a man of few words. He was kind, compassionate and had an amazing smile and laugh.
He was serious and silly, and kids adored him. He was always the “cool” uncle. His joy in life was spending time with his family and riding his Harley. His leading lady was his Australian Shepherd Hot Mess Bess.
Wyatt is lovingly survived by his parents John and Dee Perry, Grandmother Fern (Maw) Douglas, brothers Drew and John David Perry and his sister Laurie (Rocky) Everett, all of Cape Girardeau. He also leaves behind his nieces and nephews Madison and Gavin Perry, Fletcher Everett, Ashlynn Perry as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins. He wi1l be greatly missed by all.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents D.L.(Paw) Douglas Jr., William G. Perry and Lucille Perry.
Memorial visitation will be held Saturday, March 21 at 11 :00 AM until service time at McCombs Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jackson.
Memorial service will follow at the funeral home at 1:00 pm.
In memory of Wyatt and in lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to VFW Post 3838. 1049 N. Kingshighway Street, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.
We were usually 1,100 miles away from Cape, but we still managed to snap a lot of photos of young Wyatt. Click on any photo in the gallery to make it larger, then use the arrows on the left and right side to move to other photos.
I was going to write something profound about the 2015 reunion, but I need to let my thoughts simmer for awhile.
Maybe it’s my family’s brush with mortality lately; maybe it’s looking at that looping series of photos of our classmates who have graduated to the next level; maybe it’s just that the doggone stairs in the Arena building seem steeper than they used to. So, rather than post the rather melancholy thoughts that are floating around in my head right now, let’s just go straight to some happy pictures of the celebration we had.
2015 Reunion photo gallery
Click on any picture to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery. There are a lot of images of the photographer herding cats to set up the group shots. I’ll add that job to the list of career opportunities to avoid.
Some time between graduating from Central High School in 1965 and leaving for Ohio University in 1967, I hopped on a train in Cape Girardeau to go to a National Press Photographers Association Flying Short Course. I heard two things at that seminar that influenced my photography from then on.
Ken Heyman and This America
A photographer named Ken Heyman illustratedThis America, A Portrait of a Nation, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At that stage in my career, I thought any photograph that was published in a book had to be great. Looking back at it now, I know that some of the photos WERE iconic, some were solid images and some were merely pedestrian, at best.
Two photographers were sitting in front of me. One turned to the other and whispered, “I could shoot pictures better than that.”
His buddy responded, “Yeah, but the difference between him and you is that HE actually did it.”
Tom Neumeyer actually did it
I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
When I got back to Cape a couple of weeks ago, those the words I heard at that seminar 40-plus years ago came flooding back at me when I heard that some guy named Tom Neumeyer was holding a book signing for his new photo documentary book, Cape Girardeau Then & Now.
It’s a collection of 120 vintage photographs paired with what you would find at those locations today.
I COULD HAVE done that book. TOM did it.
When we went to Cape’s new public library (which is really nice, by the way) and I saw framed photos from the book hanging on the wall, I knew I had to have a copy.
Small world department
The person who took my money was Carolyn Penzel, another member of the Class of 65.
When I got up to Tom to have my book signed, he recognized my name and asked how [Family nickname my wife has been trying to leave behind for almost half a century] was.
Just about that time, Don and Marty (Perry) Riley, my in-laws walked in.
Life’s like a pinball game
I’ve always admired folks who know what they are going to do and go after goals in a straight line. My career path has been more like a pinball game where outside influences bounced me all over the place. I was reminded of that when I ran into a some people who had a major part in my life as a newspaper photographer.
I saw my Mother, Mary Steinhoff, (left) talking with Jo Ann Bock, who is a multifaceted writer and former teacher who was married to Howard Bock. When I came to Central High School as a freshman, Mr. Bock knew I had an interest in photography. He invited me to join The Tiger and Girardot photo staffs and taught me how to process film and make prints. When he died in May 2009, I discovered many things I never knew about the man.
I was admiring Tom’s photos on the wall when a man walked up and said, “I used to be Gary Rust.”
“I used to be Ken Steinhoff,” I countered.
Gary Rust, now a newspaper magnate, got me my first newspaper job. John Hoffman, the editor and publisher of The Jackson Pioneer had been in an auto accident that severely injured him and and killed his wife. Gary knew he needed help in the office, so he recommended me.
I think the recommendation was more because I had been dating the granddaughter of the local head of the Republican Party, and I was a rabid Barry Goldwater supporter, than it was for any journalistic prowess.
By the time I left the paper, I learned how to be a reporter, photographer, typesetter, layout editor, photo engraver… all for the munificent sum of $75 every two weeks.
I mentioned that I came away from that seminar in Peoria with two life-defining messages.
The second was from Louisville Courier-Journal photographer Bill Strode who talked about photo ethics. “If I set up a photograph and there are only two people in the room – me and the subject – then that’s two too many people in the world who know that I’m a damned liar.”
Gallery of book signing photos
One of the nice things about doing this as a blog instead of as a newspaper story is that I won’t get in trouble if I don’t identify all of the people in the pictures. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to step through the gallery.