I grew up relatively poor, a situation that wasn’t apparent to me until I was much older, as my parents always ensured that we had food on the table and a roof over our heads.
I was 8 when I landed my first job assisting the bread deliveryman from Jackson’s Bakery (Leeming Street near Wentworth between Cannon and Barton) on his daily route. After every shift, the deliveryman would ask me to lock up and check the cargo area for any leftover items from the day’s delivery. Invariably, there would always be a loaf of bread, a box of cookies, and occasionally, a cake. They were treats that, save for my job, I would never have had the opportunity to eat.
It was only years later that I realized the items were not surplus, but purposely left by the deliveryman; it was his little way of showing kindness to me. His kindness left an indelible mark on me, and it’s an example that I have tried to pay forward.From ‘Memories in the Hub’ by Anthony Perri (Originally printed in the March-April, 2017 edition of the Sherman Hub News)
Husband, father, nonno, actor, retired secondary teacher, and founding father of St. Anthony’s Parish. He a member of Knights of Columbus for 30 years, a member of The Children’s Charity of Hope, supporter of City Kidz, school Trustee, DJ, restaurateur (Perry’s Roadhouse), band mate (Stardust), and Moody Blues fanatic. He was also a community volunteer who would show up with power washer in hand to help a neighbourhood clean up graffiti, somewhat of a surrogate father, a Tim Horton’s buddy, someone you could count on to be there for you like getting you to the airport for 3am and in the end, someone who could help two foes find common ground and mend old wounds.
Someone in the Gibson & Lansdale community (GALA), once asked the question to the group: “Does anybody know the history behind Macys Foodmart on Cannon. What was there in the past ??”
A few comments were thrown around until finally, Tony dug into his Ward 3 treasure chest and threw this into the wind:
“Where the Tim Horton store is, there was a Studebaker car dealership and in the Foodmart store, there was a kitchen cabinet maker. I used to get broken hockey sticks from the Red Wings at the Forum and the cabinet maker would glue them back together for us. Everyone in the neighborhood had professional hockey sticks to play with. I still appreciate the kindness that was shown.” He later recalled that the car in the Studebaker dealership front window looked like something out of the future (from space). It was the Avanti.
“So many stories just around the Forum, from wanting to run away with the circus, watching the Red Wings practice every day, the horse stable behind the Bombardieri store, Jackson Bakery on Leeming, Essex Packers on Brant St. Some day we should go for a ride”, he offered … “different memories will pop up; especially at the Waverly and International Taverns, Roma supermarket on the corner of Barton and Gibson, Roma Bakery…”
In the past, I’ve likely been vocal about my feelings towards having multiple publicly funded school systems. I know I have had my opinions privately on the issue.
In 2014, I found myself a very nervous, disheveled candidate, single sleepless dad of two, vying for the position of public board trustee over the course of an almost year-long campaign. On the other end of the spectrum, was this very sharp dressed, calm, confident yet humble former secondary teacher and separate board trustee, who beyond his very prepared appearance, made you feel at ease talking with him.
Tony and I did cross paths a few times over the course of our independent campaigns, but it wasn’t until we had both won our respective seats that we finally met with any intention. Tony reached out to me with hopes that we could meet for a coffee and discuss any common education issues and ways we could work together to better educational outcomes for all students in our joint service areas.
We met at Cannon Coffee Co. on Ottawa Street where we discussed at length everything from education, our lives, to our dreams for the youth in our community. When I ran in the election, trustee candidates talked about working closing with our municipal, provincial, and federal counterparts, but I had envisioned that collaboration to be more about council than relationships with the coterminous board. For sure there were partnerships between the two boards on topics such as transportation (which was more forced back then than a true partnership), but there we were talking about the well-being of students as one common dream.
We also discussed my Education Matters articles in the local community newspapers, with Tony giving praise to my writing which meant a lot. It was then that he expressed his own dreams to share the many stories he wanted to tell about life in the hub. Now as Managing Editor of The Point, I had hoped to reach out to him and other local politicians soon, to share their thoughts more regularly with all of you.
Tony and I also sat on our board’s special education committees at some point over our joint tenures, and SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee) was where we found even more common ground including the occasional joint meetings from time to time.
The last time I saw Trustee Perri, was at the inaugural board meeting at Bishop Ryan after the 2018 election. For HWCDSB inaugural boards, the evening starts in the chapel where a wonderful service is held before moving to, in this case, the library for the remainder of their meeting.
This was my first time visiting the breathtaking south mountain high school, but as soon as Trustee Perri spotted me outside of the chapel – likely looking a little lost not knowing anyone there at that time, he was quick to come over and shake my hand, introduce and raise me up in front of his peers.
It was a wonderful evening that left me inspired to think of how HWDSB could bring such rich tradition and inspiration to the first meetings of their new board of Trustees.
Through working with Trustee Perri, I gained a new perspective on education as a whole, whether it’s public, separate, private, homeschooling, unschooling or schooling without a title. I learned as much as I could about all of these forms of education, meeting various partners and leaders along the way, and I owe the inspiration to looking beyond the education I grew up with in an effort to better understand the purpose of all choices, to Tony.
I still have my thoughts on our education systems and dreams of a new way forward as you may have read on socialeducation.ca, but I now see value in all forms of developing the minds of our children, the importance of faith for so many in our communities, and finding common ground rather than putting systems we don’t truly understand down.
I remember noticing at one point that the public board of Trustees had once sent a letter to the ministry advocating for one school system. Where once I may have jumped on board with such a statement, I found myself disappointed at one group of elected officials vying for the elimination of another because inadvertently, a certain someone had shown me the importance of working together for a common goal. In the end, what is most important is the students and their families. Through his life’s adventures including being a teacher, volunteer, and serving 2.5 terms as trustee, he truly understood this.
Tony grew up Ward 3. He went to school here as did his own children. His understanding of the demographics, his friendship, dedication to service, his volunteer efforts, and his kindness leaves a large hole in the area of educational and community leadership in Wards 3 & 4.
Thank you for the way you made connections and for how you, without intention, changed my perspective on education. You had a significant hand in developing the vision I now hold for what I feel quality public education and community engagement in general should look like. Most notably, respecting differences and understanding the very human side to all of our individual stories.
Rest in peace, Sir.
We here at The Point are all thinking of Tony’s family, friends, and current and former colleagues during this difficult time.
Visitation will take place Wednesday September 16th, 2020 from 4-8 p.m. at Friscolanti Funeral Chapel, with a funeral mass taking place Thursday September 17th, 2020 at Christ the King.
Addresses and more details including Covid-19 restrictions can be found within his obituary at https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thespec/obituary.aspx?n=tony-perri-antonio&pid=196799314
Watch the life of Tony (Antonio) Perri in pictures by clicking on the below image which will take you to the Friscolanti website.
Do you have a story to share about Tony? We’ve read a few tributes online but would enjoy sharing more with our readers. We would love to hear what Trustee Perri meant to you. Not up to writing one yourself, give us a call at 289-689-2870 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to set up an interview and help tell your story together.