Cherished teacher Keith Perry will be attending his own celebration of life on July 1.
Colleagues, students, and people he has shared the stage with will be traveling far and wide to join him.
Sean Smith, a former drama student of Perry’s, will be traveling from Vancouver with his two sons to have one last hurrah with the man he says he owes his Clarence Fulton Secondary School diploma to.
“He’s solely responsible for getting me to graduate,” said Smith.
Born in Wales, Perry was the kind of teacher who could bring out the talent in any kid, says Smith. Within weeks the shyest and most unsure talent could blossom into themselves as singers, dancers, or actors.
“He instilled skill sets in kids that needed it,” said Smith.
Smith kept in close contact with Perry long after graduation, even through his 15 years in the army. No matter where Smith went, Perry would know where he was through weekly phone calls.
“Keith is the type of person you can call years later and just has a way of setting your mind right,” said Smith.
James Douglas, a former drama student and teacher’s assistant of Perry, visits with him as much as he can and has the ability to chat with him more often now that he is on Facebook.
“He’s one of my most favourite people in the world,” said Douglas.
Douglas directed his first movie, Stephen King’s The Doctor’s Case and as a thank-you to his old friend, he put Perry in a couple of scenes as a minor character.
“To have him in it meant so much to me,” said Douglas.
One student, Kelly Rance, is traveling from her home in Edmonton, Alta. to attend Perry’s celebration of life and said he had a big influence in her life.
She spoke fondly of the productions she stage-managed and appreciated the trust Perry put in her and all of the other drama kids.
“With Mr. Perry, everyone had a place,” said Rance.
Perry lived in Edmonton at the time of his Grade 10 year, but he dropped out for retail sales after his principal told him he wouldn’t make it in school. It took many years after this to realize his passion and ability for learning.
He earned his degree in musical theatre at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and his teacher training at Simon Fraser University, which showed him that he, in fact, was capable of being an educational influence.
Perry knew what it felt like to be doubted academically and had experience to make deeper connections with his students.
Perry did at least 25 major productions at Fulton and received criticism for double-casting the shows, but since it gave twice as many students room to grow, he kept with it.
His love for teaching kept him from leaving the business, even after retirement. For years, he went on as a substitute teacher and fulfilled his family-given title as a life-long worker.
Many students were forever impacted by Perry’s teaching and listening capabilities, but he also had many students who had a lasting imprint on his life and gave him “perspective.”
Perry and his family invite his friends, students, and colleagues to attend Mr. Perry’s Opus on July 1, to celebrate his life from 1 to 4 p.m. at 1506-35th St., Vernon.