Peter R. Perkins ’53 died January 5, 2015, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
(The following appeared in Portland Press Herald, January 11, 2015.)
November 16, 1931–January 5, 2015
For years his license plate read “PSONRTH” and was often sighted around Yarmouth. Those who uncovered its meaning, “Peace on Earth,” perhaps got a sense of Peter’s values and character. He was a people person and reveled in meeting new people and staying in touch with friends near and far. He gave gifts of books and water buffalos in the names of loved ones—a nod to his love of reading and commitment to help eradicate hunger. With his two children by his side, Peter passed away on Monday morning, January 5, 2015.
Peter Ross Perkins was born on November 16, 1931 to Elliot and Evelyn Ross Perkins of Highland Street in Portland, Maine. Peter was a Mainer through and through—from vacations at his grandparents’ home in Cornish, and cruising Casco Bay on a retired ferry “The Gurnet,” to his education at Deering High School and Bowdoin College, where he majored in Music and minored in French.
Music put a spring in Peter’s step. He took piano lessons as a boy and was quite accomplished. During his high school days he also played the timpani and the marimba for the Deering HS orchestra and marching band, and the Portland Junior Orchestra. As a teenager Peter spent many summers at Camp O-At-Ka in Sebago where he discovered the pipe organ. The organ was a passion his entire life and he is credited with saving two instruments—one of which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
His love of music, Bach in particular, resulted in a career at the organ bench. Peter was a church organist, and sometimes choirmaster, at several churches in Southern Maine including Woodford’s Congregational Church of Portland, First Parish Church in Yarmouth, Westbrook Warren Congregational Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Biddeford, and most recently at the Freeport Congregational Church.
Before graduating from Bowdoin in 1959, Peter was enlisted in the Navy from 1952 to 1956. Through his time on the aircraft carrier the USS Hornet he not only served his country honorably, but also had an opportunity to experience many countries and cultures—gifts he would cherish and share with others.
Peter received an MA in French from Middlebury College in 1966, where he also served as organist and carillonneur. His talent as a linguist led to more than a decade as a French teacher at several New England independent schools, including North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth. Peter loved to tell the story of the time he and his wife Margaret were mistaken for French citizens by the stewardess on an Air France flight from Paris to Boston. She was so confused and argued “You can’t be Americans; you speak French without an accent!”
Even after he left the classroom Peter was an advocate for education, particularly for girls. He believed that education is the path to peace in the world and he shared his thoughts and books on the subject with school districts in the area hoping to infuse the topic of global education into secondary school curricula. Peter was a long-time supporter of the Central Asia Institute and Heifer International-organizations that advocate for education for girls and to end hunger and poverty for families around the world, respectively.
Peter will be remembered as a dear friend and neighbor, loving brother, proud father, clever bridge partner, connoisseur of questionable jokes, steam locomotive and train enthusiast, gentle soul, and for his gift for connecting meaningfully with all whom he encountered. He will leave a lasting, positive mark on this world.
Peter is survived by his former wife and friend Margaret Perkins of Yarmouth; his daughter Christina Perkins McAnuff and her husband John of Cape Elizabeth, and their daughter Birdie—with whom he shared a special bond; his son Douglas Perkins and his wife Lisa of Monkton, Vermont, and their daughters Halle and Hannah. In addition he is survived by his brother Payson Perkins and his wife Toni, nieces Sally and Peggy Perkins, and nephew Steven Perkins; as well as numerous extended family members and friends from the communities in which he lived and played the organ.
Peter’s children are grateful for the respect and grace with which the caregivers at Kindred Assisted Living, Village Crossings, supported him over the past 16 months; and to the compassionate team from VNA who cared for Peter and his family toward the end of his life.