ESCONDIDO, CA — Cmdr. James E. Perry, USN, Ret., passed away on March 11, 2021, in Escondido, California. He was born December 5, 1942, in McBride, Missouri, and is predeceased by his parents, Murrel and Leola Perry, and his brother, Wayne. Jim lettered in football, basketball, and track and field at Herculaneum High School, graduated in 1960, and joined the United States Navy as an Electronics Technician.
He married his first wife, Frances Vickers (Vicki), the mother of his children, in 1963. During his 28-year naval career, Jim was a commissioned Ensign in 1970, earning a four-year Navy scholarship and receiving a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico. After spending two years stationed with his family at NS Yokosuka, Japan, he earned a Master of Science in Computer Systems/Management in 1976 from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Jim also served on the aircraft carrier USS Midway and flew over 150 combat missions while in the Gulf of Tonkin. As Mission Commander in the E-2 Hawkeye aircraft, he was responsible for the command and control of naval strike groups in concert with the first major B-52 strikes in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1972.
Jim retired from the Navy and married Kathryn Smithhisler on Coronado Island, California in 1989. He earned his second master’s degree in Logistics Engineering and began a successful defense contracting career specializing in communications programs and aircraft systems. One project of which he was most proud was working with the Hunter Unmanned Air Vehicle program while with Northrup Grumman in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
He retired in 2012 and moved to Fort Mill, South Carolina where he enjoyed his Harley, RV trips, his three beloved dogs and cat, and time with his grandchildren. A dedicated veteran, he joined the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard Riders honoring fallen warriors and veterans with funeral escorts.
Jim was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the Military Officers Association of America, and the Tailhook Association, supporting the Navy’s carrier aircraft operations.
He credits Knights of Columbus of Sierra Vista, Arizona with a refreshed Catholic faith later in his life. Jim loved a great pinot noir, fresh strawberries, and Starbucks coffee.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, of Sierra Vista, Arizona, his daughter Michele (Missy) Hardison and her husband Scott, of Escondido, California, his granddaughter Melana and her husband, Kris, and great-grandson Kade, of Murietta, California, his granddaughter Lyndsay, her husband Neal, and great-grandson Connor, of Temecula, California, his son Mike Perry, his wife Joy, and grandson Zachary, and granddaughter Kayla, of El Cajon, California, his daughter Dacia Perry-Pelletier and her husband, Adam, and granddaughters Chloe, Fallon, and Phoebe, of Rancho Peñasquitos, California, his stepdaughter Kristin Cronn and her husband, Brian, of Beavercreek, Oregon, and his stepdaughter Heidi Lumpkin, her husband Bob, and son Bobby, of Augusta, Georgia, and his siblings, Tom Perry, LouAnn Wacker, and Kathy Melichar.
Jim will be laid to rest on April 19, 2021, at MCAS Miramar in San Diego, California. Remembrances may be sent to SpecialOlympicsArizona.org.