October 24, 1953 – March 23, 2020
Charles Louis Perry, Jr. was a cherished member of several communities. He touched lives with his smile, his sense of humor, and the southern flavor that he brought to Seattle. He died of Covid-19 at Harborview Medical Center on March 23rd. He was 66 years old.
Charles was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Charles L. Perry Sr., a World War II veteran, and Della K. Parker, an educator and administrator. He was raised by his mother and his grandmother, Della May Parker, a nurse. As a boy, he absorbed Gospel lyrics and the King James Bible at the historic Martin Street Baptist Church. His music repertoire expanded to include R&B (Roberta and Aretha were favorites), Pop, Standards, and Eva Cassidy (who didn’t fit a category). He mesmerized his friends with quotations and song throughout his life.
Charles attended all Black elementary schools and was among the first students to be bused to the previously all-white and unwelcoming Needham B. Broughton High School. Charles became a Licensed Practical Nurse and initially worked in small care centers. He nurtured patients at Raleigh’s University of North Carolina Hospital for thirty years.
After the deaths of Charles’ long-term partner, Frank, and his mother, he decided to move west. In 2008 after an early retirement, he drove across the country to Seattle with his Chow Mix dogs—Coco and Czar. Charles knowledge of dogs wax encyclopedic, and he was also passionate about wolves and Puget Sound’s orca whales.
Charles joined Liberation United Church of Christ in 2014 after meeting two of its members at a white privilege workshop. Charles encouraged his Liberation family with his sincere interest in their lives and practical advice, including how to play the tambourine in rhythm, and how to memorize test information by putting it to music.
Charles shared laughter with many friends at CC Attle’s. He was actively engaged in support groups at Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and in 2017 on a weekend retreat, he met a choir director, his future partner, Bert Gulhaugen. Charles had survived a diagnosis of HIV since 1988 and his filmed interview with the AIDS Memorial Pathway will be archived at the Seattle Public Library.
At his last Sunday at Liberation when social distancing was implemented and members refrained from hugging and holding hands, Charles anticipated trying time ahead and expressed that there are no guarantees in life. “Each breath is a gift from God,” he said. Charles quoted the psalmist, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence.”
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