BYU community says goodbye to Elder Perry

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Elder L. Tom Perry and his companion, Elder Perkins, pose with their landlady during their mission in the Northern states in 1942. Elder Perry served with the US Marines after his mission, post World War II. (LDS Newsroom)
Elder L. Tom Perry and his companion, Elder Perkins, pose with their landlady during their mission in the Northern states in 1942. Elder Perry served with the US Marines after his mission, post World War II. (LDS Newsroom)

BYU students across campus shared some of their favorite memories and qualities of Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve, who died May 30 at age 92.

As an apostle Elder Perry traveled the world and met hundreds of thousands of people. Despite traveling all over the globe on the work of the Lord, Elder Perry also touched the hearts and lives of those within the BYU community.

Some students were without words when asked about Elder Perry, while others looked back fondly on small and simple acts of kindness they experienced in sometimes random and oftentimes humorous encounters with Elder Perry.

What do you say to remember a man who literally helped millions of people through decades of service? Here are a few of those experiences as well as the characteristics BYU students said they would miss most about him.

Elder Perry portrayed a childlike enthusiasm and love for life and the gospel.

Recent graduate in family and consumer sciences education Anne Blaser remembers one experience she had at a Homecoming football game where Elder Perry was in attendance.

“Elder Perry was sitting behind us in the president’s box at the game,” Blaser said. “He would get so excited each time the BYU fight song would play. The eight of us students would sing the song loud and proud. Apparently we were not loud enough for Elder Perry. He kept telling us to sing louder! He would pretend to turn a dial up so we’d try to sing louder. He was a true BYU fan through and through.”

Graduate student in electrical engineering Jonathan Spencer said he would miss Elder Perry’s positivity and passion for the work.

“I’ll miss his energy,” Spencer said. “He was one of the oldest members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, yet he had so much energy and enthusiasm. He just breathed it into the work. You could see that in every interview he gave and everything he did.”

Elder Perry sought to find the simple joys in life and would find ways to playfully interact with those around him.

Laurence Tryon, mother of current BYU student Michelle Tryon, remembers one such small interaction with Elder Perry that occurred in the Provo Missionary Training Center.

“Back when a friend of mine was in the cafeteria in the MTC having his lunch, a hand swooped in from behind and snatched his pudding cup away,” Tryon related. “He snapped around yelling, ‘Hey!’ and found himself looking into Elder Perry’s twinkling eyes and amused grin. He offered to let Elder Perry have it. Elder Perry gave it back, telling him he needed it more than he did.”

BYU student Kelsie Miera remembers an experience with Elder Perry when she was 12 years old and her grandparents were set apart as mission presidents.

“I remember meeting Elder Perry when he set my grandparents apart as mission presidents for the Frankfurt, Germany mission,” Miera said. “Elder Perry asked if someone would be willing to say the prayer, and my brother teasingly raised my cousin’s hand. In response, Perry jokingly chastised him for being dishonest and was going to make him say the prayer. All of us in the room were laughing, including Perry himself.”

“I also remember how short I felt next to him as a 12 year old,” Miera added.

Elder Perry was a family man who taught, with both word and deed, how people should live their lives.

Exercise and wellness major Kaylie Houseman remembers and will miss Elder Perry’s example of putting first things first.

Elder and Sister L. Tom Perry. He married Barbara Dayton in 1976 after his first wife passed away. (LDS Newsroom)
Elder and Sister L. Tom Perry. He married Barbara Dayton in 1976 after his first wife passed away. (LDS Newsroom)

“I loved that Elder Perry’s first priority was the family and he exemplified that by the way he lived,” Houseman said. “I also loved that he was kind of hip and up on his social media. I remember a CES fireside where he was taking selfies with people. He was a fun guy but also an example of who we should all strive to be like.”

Graduate student in Spanish literature Ryan Hill said he would miss the unique energy Elder Perry brought to his talks and the joy he constantly portrayed.

“I think that Elder Perry embodies enthusiasm and a positive attitude and excitement about life,” Hill said. “The most vivid memories I have of him are his conference talks and his booming voice and getting up. He was always slightly different than the other speakers.”

“Others would seem to be more solemn and serious, whereas he would get up and give a more joyous and exciting tone to his messages,” Hill continued. “I’ll miss the vigor and excitement with which he approached life, his calling and the task of ministering and that it was a task of joy.”

Accounting major Riley Stevenson loved Elder Perry’s joy.

“I really liked how he was always happy, how he saw the gospel as this great thing that he wanted to share with people,” Stevenson said. “It’s how I’ve always wanted to share the gospel. He seemed like a man who just knew what he was doing. His talks were lighthearted, and he just made you happy to hear him speak.”

Recent BYU graduate in genetics and biotechnology Sydney Young appreciated Elder Perry’s example of hard work and service.

“I will miss his diligence and working to achieve the goals that he thought were most important,” Young said. “I’ll miss the way he encouraged people to keep the commandments and his love for his family.”

Elder Perry portrayed a youthful and cheery temperament for life, and he will be sorely missed.

The funeral will be Friday at 11 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

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