Friends, dignitaries gather to honor long-time lawman, community leader
Tom Fink Staff Reporter
The cold December wind blew across Claremore Thursday morning, bringing with it persons from every walk of life — the common and the uncommon, the uniformed and the plain-clothed, young and old, friends from the past and present — all of them converging on First Baptist Church to pay final tribute to a life well-lived: the life of Mickey Perry.
Local and state dignitaries sat side-by-side with family, friends, and co-workers from near and far to pay tribute and honor to the life of Claremore’s mayor.
“We’re gathered here this morning to celebrate the life of Mickey Perry — it’s okay to mourn, we all miss him, but we’re here to celebrate, and if you knew Mickey, you’d know that’s what he’d want us to do,” said Pastor Paul Simpson. “Mickey was born July 9, 1947 in Collinsville, the oldest child, with four sisters. He always told me I needed to feel sorry for him because he had four sisters.
“He graduated from Foyil High School in 1965, then earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Northeastern State University in 1975,” Pastor Simpson continued. “In 1969, he joined the Claremore Police Department and left in 1979, as a patrol captain to join the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, from which he retired in 1989 as a field supervisor.
“In 1990, he became the chief of police for Claremore — a position he held for 22 years before his retirement in 2012,” he said. “In April 2012, Mickey was elected the Mayor of Claremore, and he was named Claremore’s ‘Progressive Citizen of the Year’ that same year.
“In addition to his 41 years of dedicated law enforcement service, Mickey has been deeply involved in community service organizations,” he said. “He’s worked with and become president of the Share the Spirit Foundation (for 25 years), which each year collects, organizes and delivers as many of 1,000 food baskets to the needy of Rogers County. He also oversaw the fundraising for ‘Send a Kid to Camp’ which, to date, has sent more than 1,000 Rogers County children in need to camp as a direct result of his efforts.
“Further, Mickey has serve on numerous boards and committees at both the State and local level, including but not limited to, the Blue Ribbon Committee, State Drug and Alcohol Policy Board, Region 2 Oklahoma Homeland Security Council, OSBI Commission, Tri-County CASA, Rogers County Youth Shelter and the Emergency Medical Services Board,” he said. “In 1968, Mickey married Kathy Lynn Rogge, and he loved spending time with her, with his family and with his grandsons.
“Unfortunately for me, he was a huge New York Yankees and New York Giants fan and enjoyed watching sports although I found out he was not a Dallas Cowboys fan,” Pastor Simpson joked. “In my office, there are several Dallas Cowboy memorabilia items and the first time he came to my office, he looked around and said he was going to come back with a warrant to clean up all this trash — that was the way he was, that was his sense of humor.”
“Most of all, Mickey loved the people of Claremore, and he frequently visited the residents of the area nursing homes and particularly at the Claremore Veterans Center,” he said.
Eulogizing Perry was Claremore Chief of Police Stan Brown.
“I was close enough to Mickey to know that he would want this service to be a celebration of his life, but he’d also want it to be brief,” Brown said.
“I remember some years ago, he and I had attended a (funeral) service together and it was sad — there’s no such thing as a ‘fun’ funeral — but it was so sad, and it dragged on, so when we got back out to the car, Mickey said, as he so succinctly and so often did, don’t do that — two things: levity and brevity.”
“We want to celebrate his life — we’re going to cry, but more than that, we’re going to celebrate him, to honor him and his service to our citizens, but we’re not going to go on (long) out of respect for Mickey’s wishes,” he said. “I’m both honored and humbled to be speaking today. The family could have chosen other people — those who maybe knew him better or longer than I, but they chose me, and that’s an honor, and I today, I hope to speak from the heart.
“I first became acquainted with Mickey in 1993, and went to work for him (at the police department) in 1994 as a patrol officer,” he said. “It was only in recent years that I’ve allowed myself to call him Mickey — he was always ‘Chief’ to me, and even when he was mayor, it was still hard not to call him ‘Chief.” Only recently was I able to think of him as ‘Mickey’.
“When I was selected to be Mickey’s deputy chief, about five years before his retirement, our friendship deepened, and we became each other’s confidants, we relied more on one another — he became my mentor,” he said. “I am who I am today largely because of the influence he was in my life. I’m sure many of you could say the same thing.
“I can’t say everything that could be said about Mickey — we could be here for two days and still be celebrating Mickey’s life, what he gave to so many people, but I will say that he was important to so many people, he meant so much to so many of us,” Brown said.
“All of us know the most common thread about Mickey is that he had a tremendous sense of humor — he loved to laugh, he loved to tell funny stories, and that’s how so many of us will think of him — of him smiling and laughing, and I’d encourage everyone here to remember those stories he used to tell, to remember the style he would tell them in, how he’d laugh and how he’d encourage you to laugh with him — that was Mickey.
“Mickey’s humor was just one of his characteristics — thoughtfulness was another,” he continued. “Mickey was one of the most thoughtful men I knew, and he prided himself in remembering people’s names, and he knew a lot of folks. I often expressed to him that I was envious of his ability to do that and asked him to help me (remember names). He told me that he remembered people’s names because he liked people.”
Brown continued to pay tribute to Perry, emphasizing his humility, his encouraging nature, his consistency, his love of community, his devotion to family, and ended with an admonition to the officers in attendance.
“To you cops, yesterday I spent some time with (longtime Perry friend) Grady (Lowrey) to ask what Mickey might have wanted to be said about him today,” he said, “and he said, Mickey would probably want them to know it’s important they have their priorities right. Mickey’s death came way to soon, but he’d have wanted the other cops to know that there’s more to this (life) than how many gunfights you’re in, how many ounces of dope you take off the streets, how many criminals you put in jail — all of these are important, don’t get me wrong, it’s what we do — but Mickey would want them to know it’s important to have a relationship with their personal Savior, he’d want them to know it’s important to have their priorities right with their family, he’d want them to know that you give back to your community. So, I encourage everyone here today to take from that, that when it’s your time, that you have your priorities right, that you have a host of witnesses who can testify to that — family, community, God — all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
Simpson concluded the service with the reading of scriptures and citing the example of Perry’s life.
“I believe we could make an analogy from Acts, where Jesus went about doing good — not that I’m likening Mickey to Jesus in any way, but it’s safe to say during his lifetime, he went about doing good,” Simpson said.
“You’ve heard many instances already of how God used Mickey (for good), and I’m honored, I’m blessed to have known him.
“The understatement of the day was that Mickey loved live and Mickey loved people, and I’ll always remember his contagious smile, how much he loved people he met” he said.
Simpson read something written by Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.
“He was our Will Rogers. I never knew Will Rogers, but I would hope that Will Rogers was as good a man as Mickey Perry was.”
Following Perry’s service, he was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery.