By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – As the longtime veterans” agent for Westborough, George Perry III helped countless veterans and their families navigate the myriad issues they faced as they returned to civilian life.
When he passed away unexpectedly April 13 at age 66, his death left the community saddened and stunned.
Perry was known for his expertise, knowledge and compassion; so much so that he, along with Assistant Agent Ken Ferrera, were tapped to open the Central Mass. Veterans” Services District Office last summer. That new office served Northborough, Grafton, and Shrewsbury as well as Westborough.
As veterans” service officer, Perry was committed to helping all veterans, especially those who were indigent. He also served as quartermaster of the VFW Post 9013 where he was involved in fundraising efforts to build a new facility.
As a “home” of sorts to approximately 180 veterans and their families, the post serves as a social gathering place to meet friends and attend special events.
The current building, which the VFW has used for over 50 years, is only about 60 by 80 feet, and is poorly insulated, making it chilly in winter and warm in summer. Although a wheelchair can fit through the building's entrances, the bathrooms are not handicapped-accessible. Inside there is only room for a few tables and a bar for patrons.
In a 2012 interview, Perry said the current building has outlived its use. But more importantly, he added, he wanted to the VFW to be a “safe place” where veterans in need could feel comfortable getting help and start the process of healing from their wounds, both physical and emotional.
Perry envisioned a new facility with private meeting spaces where veterans would be able to confer with a variety of professionals. It would be a place, he hoped, where they knew they were among “family” and would not be judged but would instead find support and compassion.
A new building, he said in the interview, “would not be for us – it's for future veterans. We want to make sure that they will always have a place that they can come to, get support and heal.”
As news spread of Perry's death, tributes started pouring in. Community members mourned the loss of a man they called a “great friend of veterans and the community, a true patriot and leader.”
Ferrera noted that Perry was the “definitive model for a veterans’ service officer.”
“He was knowledgeable and compassionate. Whether dealing with a WWII veteran with financial woes or a returning Iraqi vet struggling to adjust, George offered selfless support and endless patience,” he said.
“He was my mentor and friend. Knowing and working with him has made me a better person. He will be sorely missed,” he added.
George Barrette, chair of the Westborough Board of Selectmen, also offered words of tribute.
“It is with great sadness that the Board of Selectmen mourns the passing of George Perry III of Westborough, the Town's Veterans” Agent since 1999 and who, in the past year, helped create and served as the veterans” director for the four-town Central MA Veteran's Service District to better serve the veterans of the region. It is also with great respect and admiration that the Board of Selectmen recognizes George's 48 years of service to his country and to other veterans that also served, assisting them with the transition to civilian life and navigating the bureaucracy to ensure they received their veteran's benefits they earned serving their country.”
“The Board of Selectmen, on behalf of all town staff, will greatly miss our friend and colleague and our sincere thoughts go to his wife Donna, his son Hartley, daughters Dawn, Karen, Paula and Heather, as well as his extended family.”
Born in Worcester, Perry was educated in Westborough schools and entered the U.S. Army at the age of 18, in which he served for eight years on active duty in Vietnam. Following his service with the U. S. Army, he enlisted with the U.S. Air Force where he served for 38 years, retiring as chief senior master sergeant.
Perry was also a member and past commander of the VFW Post 9013, a member of the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans.
Services were held April 17 in St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Westborough and his burial, with full military honors, took place in the Veteran's Grove of Pine Grove Cemetery in Westborough. In his honor, flags were flown at half-staff throughout the town and four U.S. Air Force helicopters flew over Westborough.
In lieu of flowers, his family requested that donations be made to Central Mass. Shelter for Homeless Veterans, Inc., 69 Grove St., Worcester, MA 01605.