Perry in a garden
Lewis Perry in North Berkeley, 2018. Credit: Cynthia Perry

Lewis Barnum Perry Jr., age 100, of Berkeley and Oakland, died on Tuesday, May 23. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Lewis was born in Berkeley on Oct. 30, 1922, to Ada May Perry and Lewis Barnum Perry Sr. at Alta Bates Maternity Hospital and baptized at the First Congregational Church. Until 1922 his parents and three elder siblings lived on a ranch at the foot of White Mountain just north of Bishop, California, but his mother moved with the children to Berkeley when she was pregnant with Lewis. When he was 2 they moved back to Bishop, and then, at age 4, to Riverside, California.

Growing up in Riverside, Lewis inherited keen interests from his parents in literature, history, science, music, birds, and outdoor adventure that lasted for life. His mother taught him to play the violin, and he switched to oboe in high school and joined the marching band. He sang in two choirs and was active in Boy Scouts where he was introduced to birding and decided he wanted to be an ornithologist. From an early age, his mother also instilled in him a deep and unfailing religious faith.

Perry in military clothes
Lewis Perry, Navy portrait, around 1944. Courtesy: Family of Lewis Perry

In 1941 Lewis graduated from Riverside Junior College, famously fainting before delivering his valedictorian’s speech. He transferred to Pomona College to study chemistry and graduated with a BA in 1942. During WWII he joined the Navy and attended Radar school at MIT. The war ended while he was in Honolulu waiting for his ship, the USS Portunus — a PT boat tender — to return to port. After the war he moved to Berkeley to study first physics, then political science, and then public administration at UC Berkeley, receiving his master’s degree in 1950.

In 1948 Lewis met Ruth Elizabeth Fogg in the choir at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley. They married in 1949, first living in Berkeley and later in Corte Madera, Marin County. They had three daughters and moved to Sacramento in 1964 and then to Berkeley in 1968. For most of his career Lewis worked for the University of California; first at UCSF, then at UC Berkeley, then in statewide UC administration as a salary analyst until his retirement in 1984. With Ruth he enjoyed almost 20 years of activity-packed retired life before she died in 2001.

Later in 2001 Lewis married Elizabeth (Liz) Ratcliffe and was warmly welcomed into her family. Lewis and Liz lived in Berkeley until moving to Piedmont Gardens in Oakland in 2011 where they both adjusted eagerly to community life. After Liz died in 2015, Lewis forged on alone and, while facing many health challenges, he filled his new single life with new friends, new interests, and new modes of expressing himself. This included a deep dive into writing poetry, the record we now have of him actively working to open his mind and his heart.

During his life Lewis was known as reliable, trustworthy, and loyal. His firsthand experience of depression as a young father was humbling and life-changing. He had an astonishing encyclopedic memory and mastery of grammar, was a voracious reader, and was fond of reading out loud to his loved ones. He enjoyed singing with others so much that late in life he said there was no point in living if he couldn’t sing. He loved movies, New Yorker cartoons, opera, musical theater, and jazz. Together with Ruth he tended many gardens, joined Berkeley Folk Dancers, and opened his home to refugees and immigrants fleeing war and persecution. He took his daughters to protest marches, folk concerts, and all corners of the state to see trees, mountains, rivers, lagoons, dams, forts, missions, spouting whales, ducks, geese, and so very many vista points. Our family love for what Lewis loved is perennial, abiding, and passes on.

Perry on a mountainside
Lewis Perry at Olmsted Point off Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite National Park, 2018. Photo: Cynthia Perry

Lewis is survived by his three daughters Ayn, Cynthia, and Marilyn (Heber); his four grandchildren, Robyn (Suhaib), Ross (Lauren), Mateo, and Rachel; and his great-grandchildren, Nourayn, Safiyyah, and Lewis. He is also survived by the children of his second wife Elizabeth Ratcliffe, Steve, Patty, Bruce, and Dave, and their families.

The family would like to express our deepest gratitude to the staff and residents of Piedmont Gardens for their years of care and friendship.

To make a contribution in honor of Lewis, please consider donating to Friends of Mono Lake Reserve or any community food bank.