Roger and Wanda Perry know the power of love: it has fueled their love story and their happy marriage for more than 60 years.
Wanda said she knew right away that Roger was “the one.”
“I believe in pheromones, don’t you? The chemical. It was that way for me. I am not sure it was that way for him.” Wanda said smiling. “I had dated a lot, and I didn’t want to date anybody else. I really didn’t.”
They both tried to recall how old they were when they met.
“We probably met at 20. You were 21 and I was 20. Roger?” she said looking to him for confirmation.”
“Was I in law school then?” Roger asked his wife.
“I think it was the beginning of your first year,” she said.
“That would have been 1951 or 1952,” he said. “I was 30 or 31.”
“And I’m a year younger,” she said.
While Roger lived in Charles Town at the time, Wanda had been living in Virginia with family and came out to the Millville Quarry on the weekend.
“I had two cousins and the three of us had a little yellow surplus boat. That attracted Roger and his two cousins. So, there were three of us. And Roger was with two of his cousins, Logan and —.”
“Not Logan, Francis,” Roger interrupted.
“I thought it was Logan too, sorry,” Wanda said. “Anyhow, he asked one of my cousins out before he asked me out. And for some reason, she could not go that night. So, I was second choice.”
They interrupted and finished each other’s sentences, rhythmically and gracefully weaving together stories, in a linguistical dance that took them decades to perfect.
Unlike Wanda — it took Roger a little longer to recognize that she was going to be the love of his life.
“It took him three years (to get engaged),” she said. “I think I proposed, actually. I’m not sure,” she said. “We dated for three years and I had loved him for so long, and I finally convinced him that he loved me too. I was in love with him on about the second date. I really was.”
Roger said he knew Wanda would be in his life forever when he passed the bar and got an officer’s commission in the Army, which would provide him housing and a stipend, and allow him to bring Wanda overseas.
“I got married because I had the commission and we could afford it. We had been dating. We couldn’t get married if I were going to be a private,” he said, recalling the moment he knew they would finally be able to get married. “On New Year’s Eve, I was sitting right here (in this house) as a matter of fact. I got news my brother came in that I had been accepted to the West Virginia state bar and been offered a commission to the judge advocate board, the legal branch of the Army.”
They were to be married in the states before moving to Germany to live.
“We were married at Fort Benning. He will tell you all I did was show up to the wedding. He planned the wedding, the reception. He did it all, after having been in the Army nine days,” she said.
“It wasn’t much of a deal. We got married in a little chapel there by an Episcopal priest. Then we had a reception at the Officer’s Club. About eight people there,” he recalled.
“Well, some of your Army friends, including …” said Mrs. Perry.
“They came to the wedding, but they didn’t come into the reception,” he said interrupting.
“Somewhere I have a picture,” she said smiling at him.
“Yes. It was 65-years ago,” Roger said, smiling back at her.
Love of Community and Giving Back
The Perrys’ mutual love of each other and their love of Jefferson County — led them naturally to service work, they said. Together, they have spent more than 50 years volunteering in some capacity or another for the good of their community. The Perrys are the Scouting’s 2020 Distinguished Citizens of Jefferson County Award recipients.
Roger was a Boy Scout as a child but did not start getting involved as an adult until they came back from the Army in Germany and opened his own law practice in Charles Town.
“I felt like I should. Both of my parents had been (volunteers). I wanted to do community service,” Roger said.
“I think both Roger’s parents were active in the community,” Wanda said.
“Both of them. My father was in the West Virginia state legislature as a matter of fact,” Roger said.
The Perrys also decided to do community service because they had extra time.
“I wasn’t that busy at the beginning of my law practice,” he said.
Wanda, who did not work full-time, stayed home to raise their daughter Julia, and said she also had time to help others.
Wanda, age 88, has had a long history of volunteer work, including serving on the Vestry at Zion Episcopal Church where she taught Sunday School and was president of the Zion Episcopal Church Women’s group.
She was President of the Junior Woman’s Club, the Dolly Madison Garden Club, the Shenandoah/Potomac Garden Council, and served on the West Virginia State Garden Council United Way and received the Lt. Gen. William J. Van Ryzin award for her service.
She served on the Old Opera House Board, was President of the Jefferson County tree planting program for the streets of Charles Town. She advocated for more trees to be planted in Charles Town, helping Charles Town with the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration, developed a walking tour of Charles Town and a brochure that is still being used today. She also helped a local owner of a decorating shop in Shepherdstown do flower centerpieces for large charity events in the greater D.C. area, including a few events at the Kennedy Center.
“General Van Ryzin started the United Way of Jefferson County. He was such an amazing wonderful man. I suppose I felt better about that service than anything else I did,” said Wanda.
Roger, age 89, has spent most of his life serving Jefferson County.
Roger was a member and president of the Jefferson County Democratic Association, director of the Jefferson County Development Authority, and a director of the Old Charles Town Library, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, and the Charles Town General Hospital. He has served Zion Episcopal Church as a member of the Vestry and Senior Warden.
“I was a member of the Jefferson County Board of Health for 50 years. They asked me to join when I came back to town,” Roger said. “I don’t have a favorite volunteer job. It’s hard to single out one.”
Roger had a lifelong career as an attorney. After coming home from serving in Germany for three years in the Army, he set up his own law practice in Charles Town. He practiced for more than seven years before being asked to become a partner for a firm.
“He became the third member of the firm, Avery, Steptoe and Perry,” said Wanda
Roger also served as a delegate for the state legislature for four years and was active in the Democratic party. When John F. Kennedy came to Charles Town for a rally with his wife, the Perrys got to ride with them in a car.
“I rode in the back of the car with Jackie Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was speaking at the racetrack,” Wanda said. “I said, ‘How do you do?’ She was in the front seat; I was in the back.”
Distinguished Citizens of Jefferson County Award Person of the year Dinner
The SAC-BSA Scouting 2020 Distinguished Citizen Award (DCA) for Jefferson County will be given to the Perrys during a virtual recognition online ceremony, on Saturday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 pm, at www.sac-bsa.org/perrydca.
Pre-pandemic, the ceremony was supposed to take place at the ballroom at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. But in order to keep everyone safe, the ceremony will now be online.
“We will honor the Perrys for their years of service to Jefferson County,” said Jim Thomas, chair for the Distinguished Citizen Award. “We also want to raise awareness of the scouting program in Jefferson County and to raise operating funds for the Shenandoah Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.”
Scouting serves more than 4,000 young people annually in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Both the Perrys feel that they are undeserving of the award.
“I was very shocked. I think about all the people I know that have done so much and contributed so much. I honestly don’t think we are deserving of it,” Wanda said.
“I don’t feel deserving of it. A lot of other people did a lot more than us,” Roger said.
Love of a Lifetime
While they are proud of winning the award, what they say they are most proud of — is a lifelong commitment and a happy marriage that has lasted more than half of a century.
When asked how they did it, the Perrys said it was pretty simple.
“All I can tell you is Roger Perry is the easiest person to live with on the face of the earth. When I would get upset, Roger would simply not say one word. Of course, he would not speak to me for about 3 days. By then I would calm down,” Wanda said. “I don’t’ think he ever raised his voice to me. I am not so easy to live with.”
“It was just mutual love,” Roger added. “Acceptance and love.”
“It has been a blessed marriage,” Wanda said. “It has been just easy. I felt very spoiled, frankly. How many women get married, have one child, do not work, like what they do, and love their husband?”
She said her husband always put her first.
“When we had two cars – we did not always – but when we did, I always got the nice one. Roger drove the junker. It was just that he just wanted to take care of Julia and me.”
The Perrys live on a family home that has three wings built in three centuries, on property once owned by Charles Washington.
When asked his favorite memory of his life, Roger said, “Driving up our driveway after work, and seeing her standing there in front of our house, holding our daughter when she was a newborn. That’s my favorite memory.”
While they love the community, to the Perrys, their love and their family time together, is the greatest achievement of all.
Donations to the Boy Scouts of America Shenandoah Area Council, Inc., can be made at www.sac-bsa.org/dcasponsor or mailing a check to: 107 Youth Development Court, Winchester, VA 22602.