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Dr. Pennie E. Perry

February 11, 2018

Dr. Pennie E. Perry, age 102 of Wendell departed this life on February 11, 2018. 

Funeral service will be held at 1:00PM, Friday, February 16, 2018 at Riley Hill Baptist Church, Wendell.  Interment will follow at the church cemetery.

A visitation will be held from 3-7PM, Thursday, February 15, 2018 at William Toney's Funeral Home, Zebulon.  The family will receive friends from 12:00-1PM prior to the service at the church on Friday.

Dr. Pennie Ellen Perry, youngest daughter of the late Deacon Guyon Perry and Eliza Jones Perry was born, March 1, 1915 in Wake County, North Carolina  She transcended peacefully into eternal rest on February 11, 2018, at her home, surrounded by members of her family.

Dr. Perry was affectionately referred to by family and friends as “Pennie”, “Aunt Pennie”, “Pennie P.” and “Dr. P.”. 

She received her early education at the Riley Hill Elementary School, and the Berry O’Kelly Training High School located in the Method Community in Raleigh, N.C. She furthered her education at Shaw University, Raleigh, NC and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Science [1936). Continuing her education, she received her Master of Science Degree in Science from the University of Michigan and was the first African American to live in the dormitory at the University of Michigan. She received a Master of Science Degree in Library Science from Syracuse University, and Doctor of Philosophy Degree from The University of Chicago.

Dr. Perry’s career included, teacher of Chemistry and Biology –at Perquiman County High School and George Washington Carver High School in Pinetops, North Carolina, Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina and South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She worked at Florida A. & M. University in Tallahassee, Florida and retired [after 21 years of service] as Director of Libraries at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.  Dr. Perry was the first African American to serve as Recording Secretary of the North Carolina Library Association and one of the first African Americans to attend the American Library Association.  She was a dedicated member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Moles, Inc. where she served as National President from 1987-1991, Charlotte Chapter.

At an early age she joined the Riley Hill Missionary Baptist Church and remained a faithful member until her health failed. One of Dr. Perry’s favorite songs was “Sign Me up for the Christian Jubilee”.  She also had a beautiful singing voice, Serious about her commitment to the church and community, Dr. Perry exemplified Christ with her giving spirit.  During her many active years of service in church, Dr. Perry served on many committees and taught classes for the Wake Baptist Association and taught Sunday school for the Wake County Sunday school Convention.

Dr. Perry was the first woman to hold the office of Vice President of Wake County Sunday School Convention. She was the first woman to be ordained as Deacon at Riley Hill Baptist Church. Dr. Perry was also inducted into the Wake Missionary Baptist Association’s “Hall of Fame”.

Dr. Perry was proud of her family. Her nieces and nephews didn't have to do much for her to brag on them, she had a personal relationship with each one--they all have a story to share about Aunt Pennie. They were equally proud of her and that was evidenced by the 100 year birthday party given in her honor. She enjoyed sharing the family's history with them. In the early 1970's Pennie was instrumental in establishing the Perry Family Reunion Weekend Celebration. It was a grand affair with a bus load of family and friends coming from Providence, Rhode Island and other places throughout the United States. She wanted us to connect with each other and never forget our heritage. For over forty years she was the catalyst that made the reunion a success. She always told the story of the three brothers, and she was eager to involve her nieces, nephews and cousins who sometimes found out that they were on the program when they arrived. She knew they could rise to any occasion. There were so many things to love about Aunt Pennie. If you were graduating from anything, anywhere...she was there, and she always found something positive to say about your accomplishment. She was a huge advocate of getting an education. She once said, "It is much easier to go to school than it is to work hard physically for the rest of your life. Knowledge is power. Take all opportunities and advantages given to you because you never know how much they will affect your life." Reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement she said, "You can change what people can do... but not what they think. You can't legislate attitudes." Therefore, she encouraged everyone to arm themselves with knowledge. Whenever you talked to her, you could see the memories flowing through her mind as she recalled stories from the past.

Dr. Perry was very active in the community during the integration movement, and used her car to take marchers to various places of action and to Sit-Ins. She encouraged everyone to vote and supported that by transporting them to places to register and vote.  She worked on campaign committees to help persons of color to be elected to public office and during elections, Dr. Perry worked at polling places.

Dr. Perry continued her commitment to public service in the following capacities

Serving on the Wake County Planning Board.
Serving as a member of the Concerned Citizens for Children in Education organization, founded to assist in closing the achievement gap between Black students and white students.   
Advocating for the Rosenwald School Projects in the Riley Hill & Juniper Level Communities.

Dr. Perry was preceded in death by her three brothers: Billy, Aaron, and Willie Walter, and one sister Bertha. Those left to cherish her memory include: her loving niece, Esther Carter Buie, special nephews Warren Perry [Gwen], and Rudolph Perry [Faith], of Wendell, North Carolina; and a host of grand nieces, grand nephews, cousins and friends.

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