WWII vet Perry White remembered as kind, dedicated

Jan. 15, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Perry White, who died Friday, was described as a man dedicated to his country, city and family.

White, 91, served on nearly every board in Lee County, from the county commissioners to the Central Carolina Community College trustees, Temple Theatre, BB&T bank and others. A decorated fighter pilot during World War II who was shot down twice in the Pacific, including once when he was missing for days behind enemy lines, he was also a member of the local Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, serving as VFW chaplain. He also won The Herald's 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was a deeply religious man, well known at St. Luke United Methodist Church — where he taught Sunday School and was a regular attendee at prayer breakfasts — and regarded for his sunny disposition.

"His glass wasn't just half full," his daughter Pam Patterson said Monday. "It was brimming."

Patterson's husband, Edwin, said he never heard White utter a bad word about anything or anyone, and although he was a staunch Democrat, he never let his politics descend into vitriol. White's friend Lloyd Jennings, who said the two could sit and talk for hours at a time, agreed that White's kindness was one of his most defining features.

"He had just a huge heart, and at the same time he was a man's man; he proved that in his service to the country," Jennings said. "... When you talked to him about that, it was clear he understood who was in charge. He knew he wasn't in charge; he had a deep, abiding faith."

Those who knew him also said White loved his books, even winning a national award in 1984 for his work with the Friends of North Carolina Libraries.

"He'd always ask you what you were reading, and if you said nothing, he'd give you something," said Pam, a former ESL director for Lee County Schools, adding that her father's attitude toward literacy contributed to her and her brother, Carter's, desire to go into education.