As Neil J. Perry was laid to rest this afternoon, hundreds of mourners paid their final respects to a man, many of whom owe their law enforcement careers.
Sheriffs from around the state, Chiefs of police departments, elected and appointed government officials, law enforcement and criminal justice leaders, all who had a collegial relationship with the iconic lawman, stood side-by-side today with the rank-and-file deputies and patrolmen who called him “sir”.
Perry’s family, with roots in the St Augustine and St Johns County community that go a mile-deep, were remembering their husband, brother, father, and grandfather and how important a part of their lives he has always been.
Serving as sheriff for twenty years is not possible without touching the lives of thousands of residents and visitors who vacation in our area from all over the world. Hundreds of well-wishers have reached out to the family of the former sheriff through cards, telephone calls and visits; until the end when he was too ill to receive guests.
The Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was packed — not a vacant pew or parking space to be found. Those coming to the graveside found themselves in a motorcade that stretched over two-miles in length.
Motorcycle units from Jacksonville, Clay County, Flagler County, Volusia and Marion Counties, Florida Highway Patrol, St Augustine and St Augustine Beach police departments, escorted the funeral coach to the gates of Craig Memorial Park and Mausoleum on Old Moultrie Road.
A military and law enforcement honor guard walked alongside, one hand against the vehicle that carried the flag-draped casket and remains of their long-time leader; led graveside by the honorary caparisoned horse — riderless, with a pair of dress boots backwards in the stirrups, symbolic of the warrior who would ride no more.
Law enforcement honors, including bagpipes and a twenty-one gun salute, military honors including a “missing man formation” helicopter fly-over as well as full masonic rites were delivered to the hundreds who attended the services.