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Dianne Perrett, left, cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony for the Paul J. Perrett Senior Center in Rockford while Center Manager Brenda Oden celebrates. Photo by Christa Jennings
A memorial table set up for the ceremony pays tribute to the late Paul Perrett, the visionary who helped spearhead the new senior center project. Photo by Christa Jennings
Guests enjoy visiting following the ceremony. Photo by Christa Jennings
Dianne Perrett cuts the cake while Katherleen Larmon, emcee for the occasion, plates the slices for guests to enjoy following the dedication. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
After a long time waiting and hoping, the Paul J. Perrett Senior Center in Rockford not only came to fruition, but was officially dedicated during a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
Approximately 70 people attended the dedication ceremony for the new center, which also served as its grand opening. In addition to local senior citizens, numerous elected officials were on hand for the celebration.
Elected officials in attendance were Judge of Probate Richard Dean, District Judge Carlton Teel, Superintendent of Education David Stover, Sheriff Michael Howell, Revenue Commissioner Debra Lamberth, District 4 County Commissioner Ronnie Joiner, Rockford Mayor Pro Tem Kimberly Crowe, and Rockford Council members Shirley Ogle and Robert Smith. Non-elected officials present included County Administrator Amy Gilliland, former Rockford Mayor Randall Lewis and recently appointed Rockford Councilmember Lynn Anne Castleberry.
The dedication kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony, with Dianne Perrett, Paul Perrett’s widow, cutting the white ribbon while standing next to Senior Center Manager Brenda Oden as a crowd looked on. Cheers erupted when the ribbon was cut and the center was officially dedicated.
The celebration then continued inside the new senior citizen center, which is the renovated old school library across from the Sheriff’s Office and next to the Rockford Event Center.
Manager Oden welcomed everyone to the special occasion, and Katherleen Larmon emceed the event. Foy Smith, local senor citizen, led the group in a prayer before the floor was turned over to speakers.
Dianne Perrett spoke of what a special occasion it was while recognizing the heart-touching occasion that had finally come to be.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I’m without words; that’s not like me. This is a beautiful day that God has given us.”
She recalled when her husband first spoke of wanting to do something for the area seniors and how he set a goal to get them a safer place to congregate.
“When Paul got involved with Coosa County and visited the senior center, he was determined that those seniors would have a safer place off of a busy highway,” she said.
She mentioned what a beautiful new center it is for the seniors and that it is much safer and off of the highway. She further thanked all of those who helped make it come to fruition and who had a hand in the project, including those who picked up and carried the torch after Perrett’s passing.
“You’ve got to know, one person can make a difference if they’re determined and if their focus is the same focus that God has,” she stated. “Paul stayed in touch with that focus and that will. Again, I say thank you.”
The floor was then turned over to elected officials and other dignitaries for moments of recognition, as outlined on the event’s program.
Commissioner Joiner stated, “It’s an honor to be here to dedicate this building today to Mr. Paul. If it weren’t for him, it wouldn’t be here. I just wish that he was able to see what was going on here. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this.”
He recalled that shortly after he began his term with the County Commission he decided that they needed to name the building after Paul Perrett, the former commissioner who initiated the effort. With a majority vote, he said it happened and became a reality.
“Mr. Paul was a dedicated person for this county,” Joiner said. “He loved this county and did everything he could for this county. He fought till the end for the county. I’m honored to take his place and try to continue the work that he had started and try to finish up everything he started. I just want everybody to never forget Mr. Paul.”
Joiner added that it is a “wonderful thing” to be able to dedicate the building to Perrett, and he thanked everyone who helped get the center completed.
Former Mayor Lewis said that he could not say much more than that everyone else had already spoken on. However, he said that he remembered Perrett coming up to him and saying that the senior center was unsafe, asking what they could do.
Lewis said they discussed the old school library and worked together on that effort to transform it into the new senior center.
“It took us longer than we expected to get everything done, but Paul was there – wanting to know what was going on,” he said. “Eventually we got the work done, and I’m just so happy to see everyone here. This is the first time I’ve been in it since it was completed; it looks wonderful. The most important thing is the seniors have a safe place to come to and meet and enjoy it.”
Lewis said that it was a joint effort between the town and County Commission, saying that it all worked out in the end. He also thanked everyone for coming to the special ceremony.
He added, “Paul was a great guy, and he was a hard worker. Like Ronnie said, Paul loved the county, and he’s missed.”
While Rockford Mayor Scott White was unable to attend because of conflicts with a prior obligation, as well as being sick with a cold, he sent a letter to Mayor Pro Tem Kimberly Crowe and asked her to speak on his behalf.
In that letter, White stated, “I’m excited for this time and dedication to a well-deserved cause. I often share my thoughts of how important our seniors are to us and what a positive role they all play in our society. The Town Council and I are thankful to have played a part in making this beautiful senior center become a reality. All of this would not be possible without the actions of the previous town administration and the County Commission. Also, we cannot forget the biggest visionary, Mr. Paul Perrett.”
He further recalled that shortly after he won the mayoral election, Perrett met with him to discuss further plans for completing the senior center project.
“I’m happy to see Mr. Perrett’s vision has come to life for the senior citizens,” White said in the letter. “I’m glad we all played a part in this project and what a blessing it is to honor a truly selfless public servant who served his county well. I hope everyone enjoys this amazing center, and God bless all.”
Others who spoke briefly during the ceremony included Administrator Gilliland and Amanda Vingers with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission. Others recognized on the program but who were not in attendance included former Rockford town clerks Jennifer Tindall and Kris Rambo and former county administrators Bridget Graham and Sherrie Kelley.
The dedication was given by Judge of Probate Richard Dean. He explained that Commissioner Joiner asked him to speak at the ceremony because of the time he spent with Perrett on many of his projects.
“Proverbs 16:9 says, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ It is obvious the Lord determined Paul Perrett’s steps,” Dean said. “This is not a eulogy, but when someone’s name is placed on a building, especially a government building, we need to know a little about the person.”
Dean went on to say, “Who was Paul Jackson Perrett? He was a kind caring individual who loved God, his church, his family, his friends, and his Coosa County. Speaking of friends, Paul considered everyone a friend, until he was given cause not to. He called everyone ‘my friend’ and honestly meant it. He always had a smile on his face, enjoyed joking around with people and enjoyed life. Paul was a man of integrity, and his word was his bond.”
He recalled some of Perrett’s funny sayings and witty quips he would insert into conversations.
He spoke about Perrett’s past, saying that he grew up in Chisolm in Montgomery County, with his family not having much when he was growing up. However, he said that Perrett worked all of his life, from cutting grass as a youth to driving a bus in high school, then in the Air Force and eventually with AT&T.
“After retirement from AT&T, Paul never slowed down,” Dean said. “He worked in the Real Island and the Equality volunteer fire departments. He also taught classes in his churches. Yes, churches; he attended two churches every Sunday.”
He added, “Paul was dedicated to Coosa County. Without Paul, I am not sure Coosa County would have gotten the E-911 system and addresses. After working the E-911 project, Paul served as a Coosa County commissioner.”
He mentioned that Perrett also worked with the monthly food drop at Equality Methodist Church. As people would come through the line, he shared that Perrett made everyone smile.
“If someone didn’t smile, Paul would talk to him or her until he got a smile or laugh,” Dean recalled. “This often slowed down the line, but we will never know the impact he had and how many probably needed that conversation and what difference it may have made in their lives.”
He added, “Everything Paul did, he did for others. He worked hard for Coosa County.”
“In the hospital, Paul worked to the very end,” he said. “Two days before he passed, he was working to get a firehouse on County Road 20 because that area has been designated a ‘no fire coverage area,’ and the people there need fire protection. He was calling Jackie, me and others with questions and to chase down information for him. That was Paul Perrett, and that tenacity is what brings us to this point – the naming of this senior center. This center would not have been here if it wasn’t for Paul Perrett.”
Dean said that for years Perrett worked tirelessly to improve the senior center, raising more than $10,000 to support the center. He said that Perrett obtained the property and worked with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, Town of Rockford and County Commission to make the building the new senior center.
“He was passionate about it and felt our seniors deserved better than what they had,” Dean said. “He spent countless hours negotiating and working behind the scenes to obtain the funding to make this all possible. When Paul talked about the senior center, you could see his passion. You could also see his dismay because he felt we were not doing enough for our senior citizens. If Paul was here today, I have no doubt he would tell you, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this; I was just doing what I know is right for our seniors. They deserve it.’”
“However, I disagree with Paul on part of that point,” Dean said. “It is appropriate that we do this because Paul deserves it. We will never know all the things Paul did for his county, our county. The Lord obviously determined Paul’s steps, and that is why we are here at this moment, to recognize Paul’s efforts, his concern for his fellowman, and to honor Paul for all his hard work, his graciousness, his life, and the legacy he leaves.”
Following the closing remarks, Rev. Ernest Oden said a prayer to bless the refreshments, concluding the ceremony.
The Paul J. Perrett Senior Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. The age to join the center is 55-60 years old.
Hot meals are served daily, and for more information individuals can visit the center in person during regular operational hours or call the center at 256-377-4888.
For more photos from Tuesday’s dedication ceremony, see “The Coosa County News” Facebook page.