A cold and blustery day did not stop a small gathering of Glenbard West Class of 1980 graduates from remembering one of their own—a man whose main job was to protect Americans from harm.
Arriving at the back of Glenbard West’s campus, about 15 classmates climbed a staircase to the class’ Memorial Bench to place flowers in memory of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry. Perry, 48, who was born in Glen Ellyn, was killed in the line of duty in St. Louis on March 8.
As the group gathered for photos around the bench, attendee and Glen Ellyn resident Tina Rudins said a small prayer. Her friend Mary Lane of Forest Park recited a poem. One classmate told the group of Perry’s last moments before his death.
According to a press release by the U.S. Marshals Service, Perry died of gunshot wounds received while serving an arrest warrant on a residence in St. Louis. He and other Deputy U.S. Marshals and St. Louis Metropolitan Department task force officers attempted to apprehend Carlos Boles, who was wanted on a state warrant for felony assault on a police officer and possession of a controlled substance. He also died in a shootout with officers. Also injured was another Deputy U.S. Marshal and a task force officer.
“Our deputies and law enforcement partners face danger every day in the pursuit of justice for the citizen of this great nation,” said the Service’s Director Stacia A. Hylton in a press release. “Our people and our partners are well-trained and prepared, but it is impossible to predict when a wanted individual will make a fateful choice that results in the loss of life or injury. When that happens, and the life lost is a law enforcement officer or other public servant, it is an immeasurable tragedy felt by all. Today, unfortunately, we again feel that pain. Our thoughts and prayers are with our fallen deputy as well as the injured and their families.”
The obituary also described Perry’s interest in a future career. He came from a family where his father was a bankruptcy court judge and his grandfather a Chicago district court judge. He also personally knew Deputy U.S. Marshals who were assigned to protect judicial figures.
The sorrowful classmate get-together brought fond memories. Lane, who was involved in the planning, knew Perry to be a quiet sort. She, Perry and some from the class also attended Hawthorne Elementary School in Glen Ellyn together.
“John was a kind of a soft-spoken guy and very smart,” Lane said. “He had a really great dry sense of humor. He was a good guy.”
Rudins added that Perry wasn’t an athlete or joined any school-sponsored clubs, but a person who enjoyed being with his friends. The one thing that struck her and others was his career choice.
“The funny thing was that he became a U.S. Marshal,” she said. “I think we were all surprised.”
Also involved with the planning was Regan Ruddy of Glendale Heights, a close friend of Perry. Ruddy reminisced about the times they got in trouble for rolling bicycle tires off the driveway and into the street, or riding bicycles and “donating” them—submerging them into Lake Ellyn. A couple of years ago, Ruddy found his friend on Facebook and tried to keep in touch with him.
“I believe that once a friend, always a friend, even if you’re not totally in contact with him,” Ruddy said. “I just thought it would be nice to get some of our classmates together and go out and have a drink afterwards to salute him. He became someone really big and a hero to all of us.”
After graduating from high school, Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1984 from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He worked in the Madison County Probation Office in Edwardsville for 16 years assuming positions of pre-trial supervision and high-risk supervision. In 2001, he graduated from the U.S. Marshals academy and was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis in 2005. There, he served as a fugitive task force team leader and the district’s firearms instructor.
Bart Perry, John’s older brother, also joined the family tradition in his occupation. He has been a supervisory probation officer with the state in Joliet for 25 years.
Bart remembered his brother as a man who had great respect for his role.
“John was a real decent person,” Bart Perry said. “He was a dedicated public servant who gave his life doing the right thing. He was making streets safer for people who couldn’t speak or defend themselves.”
Bart added that when a person who would meet his brother for the first time would never guess what he did for a living.
“He was capable of extreme aggressive action which was required for his job, but if you’ve ever met him, you’d think that he was one of the most laid-back and mellow people that you’d ever met,” Bart said. “He was an excellent father and an excellent person.”
John Perry is survived by a fiancee and three children.
The family has suggested memorial contributions be made to The John Perry Children's Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 323, Maryville, IL 62062.