WAUSEON - Edwin "Ed" Perry, 77, a retired high school teacher known throughout Wauseon as "The Voice," died Friday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly Medical College of Ohio Hospital.
Mr. Perry died of a stroke, stepson Ron Rychener said.
After working to put himself through school, including a number of graduate degrees, Mr. Perry took pride in education and relating to his students, Mr. Rychener said. "I think he had an affinity for the person who was a struggler, either socially, academically, or even economically," Mr. Rychener said.
From 1975 until his retirement in 1991, Mr. Perry taught English, math, speech and drama, and was a theater director for Wauseon High School.
He continued to teach after retirement as an adjunct professor of composition and math at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio, and tutored high school students.
He taught up until his death, and will continue even after, his stepson said. Mr. Perry donated his body to the University of Toledo Medical Center for research. "He found a way even after he left this Earth to continue to teach," he said.
Deb Schnitkey, vocal teacher at Wauseon High, said when she came to the school fresh out of college years ago, Mr. Perry became her unofficial mentor.
"He had a way of touching the students' lives," she said. "I learned so much from him for the theater department and in his ways of dealing with people.
"He was very, very personable. He really cared about the students, not just for what they did in theater. He cared about them as people."
Mr. Perry knew his way around the theater. He was active in community theater programs in Perrysburg, Defiance, Maumee, and Archbold.
His most recent performance as the wizard in Wauseon High's production of The Wizard of Oz got him a standing ovation, his stepson said.
Maybe that's because everybody recognized "The Voice."
For 31 years, Mr. Perry was in the press box at halftime for the Wauseon Marching Indians Band performances, and his distinctive bass sound gave him the nickname "The Voice."
He and his wife of 17 years, Bettie Rychener Perry, even had jackets that had "The Voice" on the back of his and "Mrs. Voice" on the back of hers, Mr. Rychener said.
Mr. Perry had a role in shaping the Wauseon High band, as he was instrumental in beginning the band camp in 1977. Since it was tough to get all the band members together for practice before the beginning of school year, Mr. Perry thought, why not have a camp where they are away from distractions and can focus on the music.
In 2001, there was a 25th anniversary celebration of the camp where he was presented with a book of everyone's recollections of the times they shared, Mr. Rychener said.
Mr. Perry's family and friends described him as an outgoing person who told jokes and made people feel special.
When Mr. Perry and his wife first started dating, he asked her when her birthday was. She said it was the month of August.
"So each day in the month of August, he brought me something. Nothing big, like a candy bar, an ice cream cone, something," she said. He did that again this year.
Sharing their love of traveling, the couple organized bus trips for retired teachers, his wife said.
A member of St. John's Christian Church, Archbold, Mr. Perry was a man of faith, his family said. He traveled with the church on mission trips to build schools in the Dominican Republic and build homes in Indiana and Illinois for Habitat for Humanity, and was a member of the church choir, serving as president for several years.
"He was an extremely active, vibrant man," Mr. Rychener said. "The dictionary would have a picture of my father right next to extrovert. It didn't you take five minutes to actually become a friend of his."
Surviving are his wife, Bettie Perry; stepson, Ron Rychener; brothers, Ken, David, and John Perry, and three step-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 17 at St. John's Christian Church.
The family suggests tributes to St. John's Christian Church.