Charles A. Perry, former cathedral provost and seminary dean, dies at 81

October 26, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Charles A. Perry, former Washington National Cathedral provost and Church Divinity School of the Pacific seminary dean, died Oct. 23 of a heart attack while on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. He was 81.

Perry served the cathedral as chief pastor, administrator, and fundraiser from 1978 to 1990. He was installed Oct. 26, 1990, as CDSP's dean and retired in 1995. He was dean while Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori earned a Master of Divinity from the Berkeley, California-based school in 1994.

He is credited with saving the cathedral from $10.5 million of debt during his tenure and additionally with raising the funds to complete the cathedral's construction, according to a press release from the cathedral.

His funeral will take place Oct. 31 at St. Paul's Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston will preside and St. Paul's rector, the Rev. Jim Richardson, will preach. Perry will later be interred at the cathedral, at a service to be announced. His wife Joy, his son Russell Keith Perry, daughter Dana Leslie Smith, and five grandchildren survive him.

"The entire cathedral community mourns not only the loss of such a significant figure in the history of this cathedral, but also the loss of an extraordinarily faithful priest and leader," the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, cathedral dean, wrote in a letter to the cathedral community. "We give thanks to God for the resolute leadership and devoted service of Charles Perry, one of the cathedral’s giants."

Perry was appointed cathedral provost by then-Bishop of Washington John T. Walker and had previously served the Diocese of Washington as executive officer for seven years. As provost, Perry was responsible for the cathedral's day-to-day operations. He also highlighted the cathedral's ministry as a national house of prayer, planning a "Service of Prayer for World Peace" in memory of assassinated Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat in 1981. Perry also organized the cathedral's Vietnam War Vigil and Memorial Service, held Nov. 10-14, 1982, during which 57,939 names of dead or missing Americans were read aloud during a 56-hour vigil.

Richardson, a friend of Perry's, wrote on his blog that at CDSP Perry "presided over a difficult era of transition into a more inclusive and wider vision for theological education. Some very good priests came through CDSP in his time."

A native of White Plains, New York, Perry received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. He also held a master's degree in public administration from the University of Minnesota.

A photo gallery of Perry's tenure at the cathedral is here.

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