Garey athletic director George Perry and his wife Clara killed in a car crash on Sunday

Louis Brewster, Staff Writer
– Certainly the attitude throughout the Pomona Unified School District, and particularly at Garey High School, did not reflect a Monday full of sunshine.
“There was an uneasy quietness when I walked into the district offices (Monday) morning,” said Paul Breit, a former principal at Garey and Ganesha who remains a district consultant. “We are all numb, disbelieving. We have all suffered a great loss.”

It was a sentiment shared throughout the district and city. George Perry, a head football coach at Pomona and Ganesha before taking on the athletic director job at Garey, and his wife Clara were killed Sunday night in a one-car accident coming down the Cajon Pass.

According to the San Bernardino County Coroner, the Perrys’ 2001 Ford Explorer rolled several times on the southbound side of the 15 Freeway just north of Highway 138 before landing in a dirt ravine on the west side of the freeway.

Both George, 58, and Clara Perry, 59, were returning to their Rancho Cucamonga home after visiting family in Las Vegas.

“We are struggling,” Garey Principal Stacy Wilkins said late Monday. “Our staff is taking this very hard, and so are our students. He was well-loved on our campus, always smiling, always willing to help out in any way he could. He had such a positive impact on our staff, students and parents.

“We feel as though we have lost a family member.”

There was a common thread from those who spent Monday recalling their memories of Perry, and it was about family.

“He was a great family man,” said Breit, who brought back Perry to the Pomona district in 2001 as the Ganesha football coach after a stint at Cheyenne High School in Las Vegas.

In all, Perry worked in the district for more than 17 years. Before being named the head coach at Pomona in 1978, Perry served on Roman Gabriel’s staff at Cal Poly Pomona.

In addition to his various jobs in Pomona, Perry also returned to his hometown of Yakima, Wash., to coach at Davis High School, where he graduated in 1970. He also coached a semi-pro team in Los Angeles for two years before heading north.

In 1991, Perry opened Cheyenne and took the school to the state title game in 1995. He was head coach there through the 1999 season before returning to Ganesha.

In 2003, Perry replaced the retiring Joel Wiese as athletic director at Garey.

“This is a huge loss for Pomona, especially Garey,” said Robert Martinez, Pomona schools superintendent. “He not only supported young students but other teachers, administrators and cabinet members.

“He was caring, sincere in a genuine way of being.”

As an assistant superintendent, Martinez said he interacted frequently with Perry.

“He was always willing to coach up our administrators,” said Martinez, “and help in any way he could. Hearing the students (at Monday’s brief memorial service at Garey), they all said how proud they were to have known him, always helping them to find a way to stay out of situations.”

Curtis Donaldson knew Perry for more than 25 years before he retired from the district last year. Throughout Perry’s travels, the two maintained contact.

“He was a good person, a good person,” Donaldson said. “He was also a good coach. His teams didn’t always have the best talent, but they won.

“He did a lot of good for the kids in Pomona, he made a difference. Those kids at Garey, well, they were his kids and he focused on those kids.”

Leonard Hudson, the Garey football coach, first encountered Perry when his older brother Daryl played for Perry at Pomona. “I was just running around, the ball boy,” Hudson said.

But he came to see Perry in a different light last season under some trying circumstances at Garey.

“He was a good mentor, always giving me little tidbits. He was always caring, always there,” Hudson said. “It was reassuring to me that he always had my back, and that’s what I was looking for. He was that type of man.

“If he gave you his word, it stuck.”

Monse Estrada, the school’s longtime baseball coach, said the students will miss Perry.

“He really cared about the kids and meant a lot to them because he pushed them,” Estrada said. “He was on their case to do the right thing. He’ll be sorely missed, that’s for sure. His personality was upbeat. He was a good man.

“Like I tell my kids, `Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen.’ You need to appreciate life as much as you can and work as hard as you can. Get what you need to get.”

Breit recalled what drew him to bring Perry back into the district.

“He related to the kids. Like any coach, he knew his Xs and Os,” Breit said, “but the factor in my hiring him was that he could relate to kids, and they liked him, they respected him.

“What a loss for us, what a tremendous loss.”

Staff Writer Wes Woods II contributed to this story.

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  • ST G54

    RIP Coach Perry & his beautiful Clara..

    Wish I would have been able to stop by one last time & see you Yogi Bear!!

    You’ll both be greatly missed..

    -Ganesha C/O 04

  • alligotstosayaboutthat

    Mr. Perry was a decent and kind man who cared about kids.

    Even though he did not know my son who is an athlete, he always asked about him and whether he had chosen a school to attend yet.

    I knew him for over 25 years and he was treasure to the Pomona Unified School District.

    God Bless his family and keep them in their time of sorrow.

  • Oh no!

    What a tragedy! My prayers are with their family… may the Lord give them strength to deal with this horrible loss.

  • Anonymous

    It was his way to be quiet,
    He was a big man, but like a teddy bear
    He was approachable, and kind
    He was patient and upstanding
    He did what he said he would do
    He would come through for you
    He was tolerant, and a model
    He held out his hand in example
    He made you try instead of letting you slide
    He made you do it for yourself
    So you could feel the pride
    He was solemn and sincere
    And now he is gone instead of here
    And we will miss his quiet nods of approval
    And his gentle reach of acknowledgment
    And most of all his smile.

    Thank you Mr. Perry, RIP

  • F.A. c/o 99/00

    Coach Perry was a man who touched many lives. as a graduate of Cheyenne H.S. I am proud to have known this gentle giant! There will be a candle light vigil in honor of coach and his loving wife on friday at the Cheyenne H.S. campus. May God bless you two!!

  • Dee Hawkes

    My heart is broken. I was George’s football coach at Davis High School in Yakima, WA We met when he was 15 years old and stayed close friends. I have so many fond memories of him as a player, coach, teacher, family man and his love of Clara. My prayers go out to his family and all those who loved the big fella. He was a special guy.
    Coach Dee Hawkes

  • ST G54

    Memorial Services for George and Clara Perry
    Saturday, May 1, 2010
    Mountain Meadows Golf Course
    1875 Fairplex Drive
    Pomona, Ca
    10am to 4pm

  • Ed Esparza

    Hearing the news of George’s death was very dishearting. I knew George from our elemetary school days and the great times whe had playing school sports together.

    Even after the great distance that myself and our classmates were away from him, we all still were very close to him. Always, when George came home to Yakima to visit it was a treat to see him and enjoy his humor and kind ways. As early as two weeks ago George had emailed me asking that I pray for a friend of his in California.

    When I read what his friends and colleagues in California have to say about him – I know this is consistant with what we say about him in his home town. I do hope anyone who knew George Perry, especially his students, will honor him by living thier life as you know he might want you to.

    IM sure many will think how unfair this is to lose a great friend like George Perry, but I cant help but believe he wouldn’t want it any other way – thats just the way he was, always wanting the best for others. I do believe Georges greatest strength was to get the very best out of someone. As a teammate and friend ALWAYS he encouraged me to do well or the right thing. Like many that knew him I too will miss my dear friend.

  • Andy Morales

    George and I met on the playing field as opponents. The one thing I liked about Geoge was his sportsmanship. Even in losing he held his head high. It was the handshake and the look in his eyes and the smile and always the kind words (good job, you played a good game). To know someone like Geoge was God sent. The last time I saw Geoge, was at our 30th reunion, I had just finished talking to some classmats. He just gave me a hug and said how you been little man. To the Perry Family all my prayers to them in this time and that your father was a very special person and will be missed. George to me will aways be a friend and big brother. May George and Clara rest in peace.