Hollie Perry Sr., 87, the patriarch of the prominent Aiken family that includes two former National Football League players, died Tuesday after a sudden illness a day earlier.
On Sunday, the Perry children and other family members had stopped by throughout the day at the home of their dad for Father's Day.
“We would just sit with him and laugh a lot,” said his son, Daryl. “He was pretty laid back and didn't want a lot. We didn't want to overwhelm him.”
The elder Perry enjoyed his 31 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. He was delighted on Sunday to talk to the newest – 4-month-old Kimora.
“She was being a little fussy and my dad said 'You're not the boss here,'” said oldest daughter Shirley Perry. “She got all quiet and started smiling at him.”
Hollie Perry and his late wife, Inez, had 12 children. Daryl came between Michael Dean and the youngest, William. Both his brothers, of course, own a big share of sports lore. Michael Dean spent 10 years in the NFL, most of them with the Cleveland Browns. He made the Pro Bowl six times.
William surely is the best known “Refrigerator” ever. He, too, spent a decade in the league and is forever immortalized as the defensive player who scored a touchdown on offense during the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl victory in 1985.
“Dad enjoyed football so much and loved wearing the team jackets,” Shirley said. “They were made for him, one for Cleveland and the other for Chicago.”
“We went to the Super Bowl and Dad had a great time,” she said.
In 2004, the Perry brothers were the honored guests for a roast at Schofield Middle School – just a short distance from their childhood home. With laughter booming throughout the dinner, the brothers took a lot of ribbing and handed it back, swapping tales with family and friends. After all, it was a roast.
Hollie wasn't one to jump into the fray, his children said. He was a quiet man and surprised everyone when he stood up and walked to the dais.
“I have something to say,” he said. “All this I'm hearing sounds like lies.” He brought the house down.
Hollie Perry was born in Saluda County and moved to Aiken with his parents and a large family of siblings. He never got past the sixth grade, because he starting work at a young age to help provide for his brothers and sisters and parents, Daryl said.
He made a living as a painter for many years – working at a number of churches and lots of private homes, Shirley said. She and Daryl described how their father was a hard worker and provider. He taught the children as they got older to make sure they got an education and earned a good living. Inez Perry was the cornerstone who took care of the kids before her death in 1987. Their dad was the glue who supported her in everything, Shirley said.
Perry Memorial Park behind Schofield Middle School was named after Inez and two of the Perry children who are deceased, Freddie and Vivian. The family home had been located there.
“We all grew up together in a three-bedroom house, with one of them for our parents,” Daryl said. “We didn't live in a mansion or a 10-bed house, but we never went without. We always had plenty of food and lots of love for each other.”
All the Perry kids played sports, Shirley said. Their dad used to play a lot of softball, and their mother was a star basketball player. Right up to the end of his life this week, he was in good health.
“He walked straighter than I do,” Shirley said. “Dad would take his exercise and make us tired. I told him, 'I wish I had your legs.'''
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
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