John William Perry

John William Perry

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  • Occupation:
    New York Police Department | Police Officer
    Reflections:
    The New York Times Portraits of Grief
    John Perry Memorial Fund
    Biography:

    John Perry knew he had only one life to live, and so he immersed himself in many.

    He was a New York City police officer, a lawyer, an actor, a linguist, an active libertarian, a social worker helping abused children, a philosopher searching for his religion, and a softhearted soul who opened his wallet and his home to near strangers.

    "He was the kind of person who enjoyed life," said his mother, Patricia Perry of Seaford. "He was a libertarian who thought some rules weren't necessary. Whatever he believed in, he followed."

    Perry, 38, was last seen helping a woman out of a trade center tower when it collapsed on Sept. 11. His original mission that morning had been to turn in his badge, file his retirement papers and embark on a new career. Instead, he retrieved the badge and rushed off with fellow officers to help evacuate people from the towers.

    "Apparently John was too slow carrying this woman," said Arnold Wachtel, Perry's close friend. "But knowing John, he would never leave that lady unattended. That was just like him to help people."

    Perry's generosity was boundless. His two-bedroom apartment in a public housing complex near Lincoln Center was known as a free bed and breakfast. Vladimir Azbel, a longtime friend, said he once called Perry because he had $1,700 in parking tickets. "He said, 'Yeah, don't worry. Just don't get anymore tickets,'" Azbel said. "Later on I found out that he just paid them."

    Perry was diagnosed with a learning disability in the first grade and only learned to tie his shoes and read by the age of 9. But he overcame those difficulties. His love affair with learning foreign languages was sparked in the eighth grade when he began studying French.

    He was outgoing, unafraid to approach a native speaker and attempt to speak the language, said his mother. The list of languages he spoke included Spanish, Swedish, Russian and Portuguese.

    Perry studied law at New York University Law School, practiced immigration law with a friend after graduating and then went to the police academy. Eventually, he took a position investigating and disciplining police officers' minor infractions.

    In his spare time, Perry took parts as an extra in movies and TV shows such as "NYPD Blue." He volunteered as an investigator for the Kings County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He also was a board member of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

    "At board meetings ... he sort of out libertarianed us," executive director Barbara Bernstein said. "If someone thought it wasn't the right timing or [a case] wasn't winnable, he was an idealist. He made us justify what we were doing."

    Perry also had explored many religions, attending various services and reading about each extensively. He was converting to Judaism and often attended the Actors Temple in midtown Manhattan, where Rabbi Noach Valley talked about Perry for his Rosh Hashanah sermon days after the tragedy. "He was never bored, because his life was brim-full of holy service to others," Noach told his congregations. "Here was a onetime atheist living a life of kedushah, of closeness to God."

    - New York Newsday Victim Database 2/7/2002 (source)

  • Guestbook

    I had the pleasure of getting to know John from the first day he applied to be a New York City Police Officer. During John's initial entry interview for the police force he approached me and asked if the NYPD needed any lawyers as police officers. I advised him to take one step at a time and his talents within the NYPD will be quickly recognized. That's exactly what happened. John soon found himself assigned to work on important legal matters for the department. While John was assigned to the Police Academy I came to know John very well. I learned that he was a marathon runner and asked him to join the NYPD Running Club. Several months later John and I were standing next to one another on the start line of the New York City Marathon. John ran for the NYPD Running Club at numerous races and again ran the marathon with us in 1997. John was a man of numerous talents but what I remember most was his people skills. His smile was contagious and his positive attitude refreshing. I have been blessed to have met John and further blessed to have come to know him as a great human being. Posted by Tom Biggers