In memoriam: Lonnie Perrin

Western Washington University employee Alonzo (Lonnie) A. Perrin passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, from a heart attack. He was 52.

A nearly 10-year employee of WWU's Transport Services and Central Stores, Lonnie was known throughout campus. He had a quick and easy smile and a big laugh, which he shared often during his work as a driver and warehouse worker. He started as a temp at WWU in early 2001, and he was hired full-time in July that same year.

Perrin is survived by his wife, Deidre E. Perrin. Perrin also is survived by his children, Ashford, Addison, Kim, Keith and Karmen. He had 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His coworkers knew Lonnie as the model employee, someone who excelled at his job. Lonnie received an Outstanding Employee Recognition Award and a hug from then-President Karen Morse, but it isn't because of his job performance that he will be missed, says Jack Herring, Perrin's superviser at WWU.

What will be missed is the man himself, and how he interacted daily with the university support staff.

"He was a ray of sunshine in our working lives, bringing a warm friendly smile, cheerful greeting and genuine concern for everyone he met," says Herring, adding that Perrin was a gifted singer who sang with the WWU group FM Singers. "He just had a gift to make everyone feel good. He was our goodwill ambassador."

Because of his job, Lonnie was all over campus, seemingly all the time. On Tuesday, he was up in Special Collections in Wilson Library, delivering a new table.

"He was a great and funny guy," says Tamara Belts, who works in Special Collections. "A really nice guy."

Lonnie was a character, Herring says. A character with character. He played many roles in his life: Air Force veteran, husband, father, guardian, grandfather and pastor.

"Lonnie was the foundation of his family, providing love, guidance and principled leadership," Herring says.

Deidre, Lonnie's wife, offered this statement:

"Lonnie's body left this earth, but his presence is still deeply felt by all of us. We will miss his smile, his laugh and his sense of humor. Lonnie was an incredibly generous man. He was a man who loved his Lord, loved his family and just loved everybody. He was a man who was not afraid to go out on a limb alone because of his beliefs. He touched so many lives.

"Lonnie was in his church singing 'Draw me in your presence, Lord,' and the Lord did just that at that precise moment. Lonnie couldn't have asked for more.

"I will miss him terribly, and I can't wait until it's my time to be with him again in heaven."

Perrin's mother died around the time he started working at WWU, and since then he has been taking care of his brother, who is disabled. Perrin's wife will continue that task, but money is tight. A donation fund has been set up through Washington Federation of State Employees Local 1381, said union president Brandon Taylor, a WWU employee. To donate, contact Taylor at (360) 220-7258 or Mary Ann Armstrong at (360) 650-7600. The union is giving $200, Taylor says.

"I know many of us are hurting financially right now; all we ask is try to do whatever you can afford," Taylor says. "If unable to donate please put Lonnie and his family in your thoughts."

Perrin, or "Pastor Lonnie," as he liked to be called, recently founded Faith Bible Community Church in Ferndale. He was the pastor there, touching the lives of many. It was there that Lonnie spent his last day, wrapping up a four-day revival that had begun on Sunday. He was singing in the choir when his heart attack happened.

"I've heard the expression 'being called home'," Herring says. "In Lonnie's case, it was absolutely true."

A memorial service for Lonnie Perrin will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at Faith Bible Community Church, 5702 3rd St. in Ferndale, across from Chihuahua Mexican Restaurant.

Image courtesy of Deidre E. Perrin