Retired Sheriff of St Johns County and St Augustine native, Neil Joseph Perry, age 67, passed away peacefully Wednesday afternoon at his home surrounded by his family. His strength and character was evident during his long and courageous battle with cancer. He will long be remembered as a compassionate and loving husband, father, grandfather and valued friend.
Having dedicated his life to improving his community and his country for over 40 years, his patriotism was always evident, and lead to his role as a trusted civic leader.
Neil’s love of the outdoors, Florida’s resources, and Florida history, are gifts he shared with his children and grandchildren. Memories of Neil turkey hunting or sitting near a roaring fire enjoying the wonders of the outdoors are part of the heritage he leaves his family.
A multi-faceted man, he shared his many gifts with all who needed him. He leaves a legacy of loyalty, integrity, dedication and honor. He will be dearly missed.
He attended St. Augustine High School, was a graduate of St. Johns River Community College, and went on to earn a BS Degree from Nova University. He was a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the FBI Criminal Justice Executive Institute’s Chief Executive Course, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
Perry was elected to the office of Sheriff of St John’s County in 1984 and served until 2004, being re-elected 4 times. Sheriff Perry understood the value of education and professionalism within the law enforcement community. After his retirement, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office established the Neil J. Perry Leadership Award which recognizes a supervisor who exemplifies Perry’s leadership philosophy. It was his vision that led to the establishment of the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation and the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute. The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation is now a statewide association with the goal of ensuring consistencies in practice and policy for all Florida law enforcement agencies. Each year the Commission presents the Neil J. Perry Service Award honoring individuals and work units/teams for outstanding achievement. Sheriff Perry also co-founded and served as Chairman of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute (FCJEI) which serves law enforcement executives throughout the state in furthering their professional development. Prior to the founding of this Institute, there were limited sources for ensuring that the leaders of our state’s law enforcement agencies received the latest methods and training necessary for operation of their respective agencies.
During his tenure as sheriff, Sheriff Perry served the county and state with distinction as Chairman and Past President of the Florida Sheriffs Association, Chairman of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, Chairman of the Northeast Florida Investigative Support Center, President of the Law Enforcement Private Security Council, and Co-chair of the Northeast Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force. However, his service was not limited to the law enforcement profession; he was also committed to serving his community through civic involvement. He was a past president of Kiwanis Club, member of the Ashlar Masonic Lodge #98, a recipient of the Outstanding Young Law Enforcement Officer award given by the St. Augustine Jaycees, a recipient of the Lifetime Public Service Award given by the Democratic Woman’s Club, Chairman of the Friends Of Scouting District Dinner, and a recipient of the prestigious Guardian De La Puerta Award given by the City of St. Augustine. He was an active member of the board of directors of the Florida Youth Challenge Academy at Camp Blanding.
Along with serving his community, Perry also served his state and country for 39-years as a member of the Florida Army National Guard. Throughout his military career he received numerous awards including, but not limited to the Legion of Merit, Florida Cross, Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Florida Distinguished Medal and the Florida Commendation Medal. Perry retired in 2001 at the rank of Colonel.
In the last full day of his life, Neil was honored by the actions of the citizens and county government of St. Johns County, by memorializing his service in the re-naming of the Criminal Justice Complex in his honor. The family is deeply appreciative of that action and wishes to also thank the many friends and citizens for their gestures and kind words. The family is also thankful for the wisdom, compassion and caring of Dr. Keith Justice and Dr. Jean Harris.
He was pre-deceased by his parents, Paul G. & Ione Masters Perry, and brother Paul G. Perry Jr. He is survived by his wife Sydney Brown Perry, son Keith Perry (Tammy) and their children Missy and Zachary; daughters Michele Perry (Doug Brace) and their son, Justin; Missy Perry May (Art) and their daughters Tiffany, Taylor and TayMay; BJ Hardy; and two great grandchildren; brother Noel Perry (Cindy), sister Dr. Ione Perry, sister-in-law Mary Perry, and many beloved nieces and nephews. As well as daughter Angela Perry.
The family will receive visitors Wednesday, June 27th from 3:00 – 8:00 pm, at Craig Funeral Home, St Augustine. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 am, Thursday, June 28th at Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, 36 Sevilla Street, Rev. Dr. Dudley Weaver, Pastor officiating. Graveside services, with full military and law enforcement honors and Masonic Rites will follow at Craig Memorial Park, Old Moultrie Road. A reception will follow graveside services at the Riverview Club, 790 Cristina Drive, St. Augustine Shores.
Flowers will be accepted, or a memorial contribution can be made to the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, PO Box 2000, Boys Ranch, FL 32064, or the Florida Youth Challenge Academy, 5629 SR 16 West, Bldg 3800, Starke FL 32091.
Craig Funeral Home Crematory Memorial Park (www.craigfuneralhome.com) is in charge of the arrangements