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Nyack People & Places: Spring Benefit Honors Win & Betty Perry

Win & Betty Perry at their home in Upper Nyack.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks will hold their Spring Benefit honoring Win and Betty Perry with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Friday, June 10 from 5-8p at Marydell Faith and Life Center, 640 N. Midland Avenue. An evening of fun is planned under the influence of a waxing Strawberry Moon. A social hour with beverages, a historic tour of the 98-year-old Marydell campus, and a BBQ buffet will precede a tribute to Win & Betty Perry.

A catalog of the Perry’s achievements in the community is lengthy including their work in the preservation of the John Green and Edward Hopper Houses and in the founding of the Historical Society of the Nyacks and Head Start. They have stood shoulder-to-shoulder advocating for causes large and small, local and national. But beyond that, the story of how a chance encounter in 1957 in Berkeley, CA led to this miraculous partnership is one worth celebrating as well.

Historical Society of the Nyacks

The historic Depew house at 50 Piermont Ave. was built in the 1850s. The Historical Society of the Nyacks is located on the first floor.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks was founded in 1994 by Florence Katzenstein, its first president, and the Perrys, among others. From the beginning, the non-profit organization has been dedicated to researching, preserving, and fostering appreciation of the history of the Nyack community. The society accepts the donation of historical paper and artifacts and preserves them for future reference. The society is manned by volunteers including a current slate of 18 trustees who give of their time to support society activities.

Located on the first floor of the 1850 Italianate-style DePew mansion at 50 Piermont Avenue, the society hosts numerous programs for the community including historical exhibits, walking tours, newsletter and book publishing, historical house plaques, and the popular spring house tours. Because of the pandemic many activities such as the house tour had to be canceled or postponed. Critical revenue from these events was lost.

Some of the societies exhibits are legendary including Fish and Ships that filled 8 rooms in the old Pavion factory (where the Pavion apartments are now located). Win Perry, called the exhibit one of the society’s “biggest successes in terms of raising interest and awareness about Nyack’s history.” Recent museum exhibits include Toni Morrison: A Retrospective, Nyack Through the Lens-Early Nyack Photographers, Isaac van Wagner and Frank Brush, and Nyack Notables-Portraits by Dr Allen Steinman.  The May exhibit opening on the 28th, Storytellers from Nyack and Nearby, focuses on children’s book authors and illustrators.

As to the value of a local historical society, Bill Batson, author of Nyack Sketch Log, states that “historic preservation is not an esoteric luxury but an invaluable tool in helping a community honor past achievement and avoid past mistakes.”

Perry Family Celebrates 200 Years in Upper Nyack Over Nine Generations

On May 13, 2022 the Perry family including members of the 7th, 8th, and 9th generations gathered for a tour of Perry home locations in Upper Nyack. The family’s local legacy dates back to Uriah Perry who came to America around 1750. Uriah moved in with his son William who purchased a farm in Upper Nyack in 1822. In the photo at right, some of the Perrys gather at the top of Perry Lane in Upper Nyack, named after one of their ancestors.

When Win & Betty Perry Meet for the First Time

UC-Berkley Yearbook 1958.

Win and Betty Perry are such fixtures in the Nyack community that is almost impossible to believe that they first met and made their first home 65 years ago on the West Coast in Berkeley, CA. England brought Win and Betty Perry together. Both went to a student co-op mixer in September of 1957 at the University of California, Berkeley. Win had spent the summer cycling in England, Scotland, and Wales. Betty’s father taught Air Force dependents in England. A friend of Betty’s noticed the common subject and introduced them. The next day they went for a walk… and now, nearly 65 years later, they are together so often in Nyack that a friend calls them off track betting’s favorite couple: Bet and Win.

Win and Betty at Berkeley

Win and Betty Perry and Florence Katzenstein planting daffodils in front f the Old Palmer Burying Grounds on Old Mountain Road in 2009.

Winston Churchill Perry, Win’s father, was named after a well-known American author of the time (and not the Prime Minister of England) who spent summers in Nyack and played checkers at Win’s grandfather’s store in Upper Nyack. Win, meanwhile, graduated from Yale and, as an ROTC student, entered the Navy upon graduation. Navy boats were a lot different than the Lightning sailboats he loved to captain growing up in Nyack. The first day on board he injured his knee on a ladder, and he was out of the service for good. He had always loved architecture, and he decided to start over and earn a second degree.  Having never been west, he applied to Berkeley, was accepted, and ventured west.

Betty Pinneo (an Americanization of the French family, Pineau) was born in Oklahoma but grew up in the Bay area of California. Her family moved to San Francisco to take advantage of shipbuilding jobs during WWII. She remembers roller skating down the steep Bay area hills, catching herself on telephone poles at the bottom. Betty spent her school years in Berkeley, near the UC campus where she’d wind up attending college.

The courtship between Win and Betty was quick. After meeting, they spent most of their time together, including dinners with Betty’s mother who had moved to El Sobrante north of Berkeley, near the San Rafael Bridge. In December of the same year, Win proposed. He didn’t have a ring, so he tied a red ribbon around her ring finger.

Marriage, New York Honeymoon, & a Summer in Nyack

The Perrys at their front door in 2018.

The Perrys married on June 14, 1958, in Berkeley. Win’s parents gave them a choice of wedding presents: Either they would come to the wedding in California, or the kids could have a car. Ever practical, they chose the car. Of course, the car was in Nyack. They flew east, honeymooned in a little blue trailer in Montauk, and then lived with Win’s great-uncle Charlie at 319 N. Broadway in Upper Nyack. Little did they know then, it would become their house of nearly 60 years.

Betty and Win were a team. They worked together for their room and board during the summer of 1958 by painting great-uncle Charlie’s house. They also built a patio shelter for a pool at the house just south of the elementary school. It wasn’t all work, however. They took a sailing trip up the Hudson River and it took them two days to reach West Point. It was extremely hot and still on the river. Betty wasn’t thrilled about sailing, even more so on the return trip when a big storm drove them downriver so quickly that they arrived in Nyack in two hours.

Join the Spring Benefit Celebration

Help support the Historical Society of the Nyacks, celebrate the lifetime achievements of Win and Betty Perry, and enjoy an early June BBQ buffet at historic Marydell. If its a clear evening, a waxing Strawberry Moon will add to the festivities.

For more information about the Spring Benefit click here.

To register click here.

Not able to attend but would like to donate, click here.

Back to Berkeley

The newlyweds drove back to Berkley via Florida, New Orleans, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Yellowstone National Park. All this in a week, camping as they went, and replacing the universal joint in the car that burnt out climbing Pike’s Peak. They rented an apartment in Berkeley near campus. Soon, they found a new cottage garden apartment that allowed children. Susie, their first child, was born the day after Betty’s last final of the year.

Buckminster Fuller and a geodesic dome.

Graduation brought big decisions. Where to live? They both loved Berkeley. It was home for Betty. Win loved the intellectual life in Berkeley, where he listened to talks by Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller. “He loved the geodesic domes,” said Betty. Berkeley was quiet and diverse, with many natural attractions. But Berkeley was already crowded with architects, and Win had roots in Nyack–he was the seventh-generation Perry in Nyack, after all. So, they decided to head back east.

The Perrys Make Nyack Their Home

The Perry House on North Broadway in Upper Nyack.

For Betty, Nyack was a little small, but could also feel like a little piece of Berkeley. Nyack was on a hillside, the Hudson River replaced the San Francisco Bay, and instead of water sunsets, they watched water sunrises. From the very beginning, Nyack history thrilled her. She speaks with reverence of the house that Edward Hopper used as a model for his painting, Seven A.M., which can be seen from their front porch. Nyack was also diverse and had a liberal element common to Berkeley. “If the problems of the world are ever going to be solved, the solution will start in Nyack,” Win said.

The Nyacks have benefitted much from the Perry’s decision to return to Nyack. It is fit that the community not only celebrate their contributions to the Nyacks and also for their family ties and long-term partnership. Join the celebration if you can.

See also

Restoring the Hopper House, Win Perry, 1973

Michael Hays is a 35-year resident of the Nyacks. Hays grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by Sun River Health, Nyack Fan Card, and Weld Realty

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