Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home and Cremation Services

John Russell Perry, Sr.


In the late evening of October 26, 2022, our beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather, John Russell Perry, Sr., passed-away peacefully in the care of Hospice with Family by his side. He was 82 years of age.

John led a remarkably honorable, ethical and hard-working life. Born in 1940 in Memphis, Tennessee to Clara Estille Nedaroy and James David Perry, Sr., he was the youngest of five brothers, the ninth of eleven children. He was born a blue-baby in his parents' tiny 600 sf home, struggling to breath. The doctor on house-call saved his newborn life and it was that doctor whom John Russell was named-after. He lived a disadvantaged childhood from the wrong side of the tracks in Memphis but, he never let anyone know that, he never allowed himself to-be a victim. After seeing the 1938 film Boys Town, as an impressionable child, he was determined to-be a good man and build a memorable life for himself. He established life-long goals at an unusually early age and then he set-about utilizing every God-given talent the Good Lord had bestowed upon him in order to achieve those goals.

John was a gifted athlete and sports was an outlet for him that he relished. He immersed himself in various youth sports leagues sponsored by his local First Baptist Church in Highland Heights. He always claimed a local well-known youth Coach, Chick Prescott, for helping-him down a righteous path out of poverty and to Prosperity. In his mind he equated Coach Prescott to Spencer Tracy's character in Boys Town and he often reminded his family of his love for his mentor Coach Prescott. John always claimed baseball to be his best sport, and he also competed in basketball and track & field, but it was football in-which he really excelled and Lord did he love the game. A standout quarterback for the Memphis Treadwell Eagles, he became something of a local legend alongside his dear lifelong friends Claude Pearson, Bobby Cawthorn, Robert Randolph and Louie Todd among others. His forward-passing exploits, known for his perfect spirals and pinpoint accuracy and leadership skills, helped him to set long standing passing records and earned-him national All-American honors and a spot on the '58 Hershey Bowl Classic team alongside future greats Jerry Stovall and Monte Kiffin. It was the premier HS Bowl of the day. By then he had been offered scholarships by practically every major football institution east of the Mississippi River and he signed with more than a few as was the custom during those times. He narrowed his final choices to two, Arkansas of the SWC and Tulane of the SEC. He really liked Frank Broyles at Arkansas and Tulane offered one of the finest Schools of Architecture in the country, a field of endeavor in-which he desired-to compete. By that time he had married his high school sweetheart and love of his life Janice "Jan" Perry (née: Edwards) and two days before final decision-day they discovered that their first child was on the way. Spook Murphy at Memphis State had just hired John's Treadwell HS coach, Coach John Cobb, and together they visited John and Jan and convinced the two to stay close to home and family with the baby on the way ... so Memphis State it was. Before the start of John's sophomore year at MSU the couple announced a second child as inbound and with that news John made the decision-to leave college and dedicate his life to providing stability and security for his growing family. So he packed up what little they had, said goodbye to family and friends in Memphis, and Jan and he headed-to Florida with Jan's parents where John would begin his career in Finance with Associates. Within a few years John was working as a National Auditor, traveling the country and climbing the ladder, eventually being-sent, family-in-tow, to their office in South Bend, Indiana to take-over the Midwest Region. In less than a year his talents and work-ethic were being noticed by various clients and the offers began pouring-in. John was recruited-to Lang's Furniture in Louisville, Kentucky in 1964 and installed as head of their Finance Department by Leo Kahn (the renowned merchandiser of Kincaid fame). In 1969 Mr. Kahn was hired by The Baumritter Corp and he convinced John that Marketing was the place to-be and to-go-with-him to become a Marketing Rep for Ethan Allen Furniture's national office. John had two choices, St Louis, Missouri or Columbia, SC. Once again he loaded-up his family and they moved ... to South Carolina. There John was given the entire Southeast Territory and within four years a new position was created for him by furniture industry legends Teddy Baumritter and Nat Ancell in an effort to take advantage of John's combined Finance and Marketing talents. John spent the next six years traveling the country and heading-up a small team of "trouble-shooters" fine-tuning various Ethan Allen franchise operations into a well-oiled chain of showrooms, and Ethan Allen flourished.

John was extremely well-compensated by Ethan Allen but the constant traveling was a grind and by 1979, with John about to turn forty and the country in a recession, John and Jan were already empty-nesters and together they decided-to take a gamble and go-into business for themselves. By this time they were living on a farm on Lake Murray, SC near the hamlet town of Prosperity. It was there that the two joined forces and opened Perry's Backporch Restaurant, built around Jan's cooking skills and John's business acumen. Over the years, alongside dedicated long-time employees Betty Dominick and Maime Davenport, John and Jan built the business into a nationally recognized meeting place where friends and family would gather for fellowship, friendly service and great food at fair prices. While the restaurant had been written-up and touted as a "must stop destination" in papers like the Pittsburgh Chronicle, the Houston Press, the Detroit Free Press, Southern Living, etc., it was warmly embraced by the wonderful communities surrounding Lake Murray and Newberry County. Still, many a traveler who had heard of "A Very Special Little Place in Prosperity" (Perry's Back Porch's well-known catch phrase) would drop-by for a meal. Surprise guests often included movie stars, celebrities and politicians including Strom Thurmond, George W Bush, Bob and Libby Dole, Governor Carroll Campbell (a good friend of John's), Floyd Spence, Kim Basinger, James Best and many many others. John always credited the hundreds of Back Porch employees, over the years, for the restaurant's success. They were part of his family in his eyes.

After more than two decades of service to the community and being credited with pulling millions and millions of dollars worth of revenue into the area, John began to contemplate an early retirement. At the age of forty-eight, while playing racquet ball, John had suffered a heart attack and undergone quintupple bypass surgery. Now, at the age of 62 and having made incredibly sound and fruitful financial decisions his entire life, John was in a position to retire early and head-to Jan's and his home mountain home on Melrose Mountain near Tryon, NC. He turned-down numerous offers to franchise the Back Porch and instead sold the restaurant and headed for the hills and their dream home overlooking one of thr most picturesque scenes on the east coast where Jan and John could pursue their mutual interests ... Jan rescuing dogs in-need and John carving, painting, sketching and scuba diving with his close friend Bill Sills.

As usual, and given his nature, John attacked his retirement with a zeal. He went-on on daily mountain hikes with his dog Ranger, often force-marching with Ranger to John's motto, "Ten Miles Out, Ten Miles Back" up and down the Hogback Mountain and Melrose Mountain roads and trails. Many many times John would throw-on a back pack, on a whim, and take off with Ranger into the mountains, off the beaten paths to spend multiple nights in the woods testing his survival skills to the brink. When home he returned-to carving and sketching and painting, driven by his need for perfection, he honed his carving skills to the point where he became a celebrated carver of ducks in particular but also hawks, wrens, Bluejays, shore birds and just about anything dressed-in feathers. Eventually, with a growing list of commissioned work in-waiting, John began to view what had started-as a hobby to relieve stress, to-be too much like work and thus, around the age of seventy he declined taking orders for his carvings and focused more on pieces that gave him personal satisfaction. Many of those pieces he gave to family and friends as gifts. And just for fun he made birdhouses in his spare time, which Ace Hardware stores, local gift stores and Wild Birds Unlimited stores would gobble-up by the hundreds at a time ... it was a side hobby he had actually started in The Back Porch gift shop. It is conservatively estimated that John produced more than 10,000 beautiful, functional, collectable, cypress birdhouses in his lifetime, now scattered all around the country. The man was a machine.

Then, at seventy years of age, Jan and John decided it was time to downsize and come down off the mountain. They chose the valley village of Jonesborough, TN as their final stop and this is where John's story, for now, comes to an end. There is much more about this remarkable man to come. His legacy, his charity and his undeniably ethical and honorable life and the people he touched.

John is survived by his loving, adoring, devoted wife of sixty-four years, Jan, his two surviving children Son, John Jr (Russ) and Daughter Pamela Elaine along with six Grandchildren and seven Great-Grandchildren (so-far) as well as his two younger sisters Mable Sue Grishom of Munford, Tennessee and Anita Faye Landreth of Henderson, Nevada.

John's final wish was-to-be cremated with his ashes-to eventually-be interred with Jan's, "when she's darned good and ready" he warned. HIs friends and family shall remember John, as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

There will be a small private family service, eventually followed-by a gathering to celebrate his life in Newberry County, SC and Memphis, Tennessee. As already mentioned his favorite movie throughout his life was 1938's "Boys Town" starring Spencer Tracy - it impressed him for life. Thus, his lifelong undying charities were first and foremost Boys Farm in Newberry, SC and secondly the national Boys Town Organization. In lieu of flowers the family asks that, for those willing and able, donations be directed to the following charities of your choice: Boys Farm P.O. Box 713 Newberry, SC 29108


Or visit www.BoysFarm.org and push the "Give Now" button. Or should you prefer to go with a National Organization another option is: boystown.org/give

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Leave an Eulogy or Condolence for John Russell Perry, Sr.

Suzanne R Thornton
I'm truly sorry to hear about the passing of John, Sr. Your family made a beautiful tribute to him, and I'm sending hugs and prayers. "This isn't death, it's glory. It is not dark, it's light. This isn't grief, it's having my last tear wiped away. It's sunrise and the morning of my eternal day." (Martha Snell Nicholson)
Sheriff Lee Foster
Our family extends you our deepest sympathies. Mr. John was a good man and was good to people. I always respected him for his kindness to my family, especially my grandmother, who adored The Back Porch. Mr. John was always kind to me, especially when I took a leap and ran for Sheriff. He have me great advice and allowed me to wander around in the restaurant greeting customers. Not only did Mr. John and Mrs. Jan create a gathering place for our little town, they had the best food. He was always quick with that big smile and a handshake with his big hand, all extensions of his big heart. Through his many accomplishments, one thing can be said about his life; he made a positive difference. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. May he rest in Peace and rise in Glory. Lee, Carol, Joseph, Amelia
Jim King
Jan and Family, John and I were team mates starting with the Chick Prescott coached Highland Heights Baptist Church Golden Bears baseball team when I was in the sixth grade (John, the seventh). Mostly, I warmed the bench, but John and Claude Pearson were a pair to watch. They each would switch from pitching to catching, and both were all star material. I loved watching their play as they carried the team to the league championship. Later I joined John on the Eagles football team. I was one of the "backup" quarterbacks. Again, I warmed the bench and watched John amaze the football crowds with his athletic prowess. Least to say, John was a good friend, but more. He was a role model all of us guys looked up to. Jan, I am so saddened to hear of John passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Bless you all.
Charles Drawdy
I really enjoyed reading John's obituary and viewing the Memorial Video. Both we very fitting tributes. John was a great friend. We enjoyed many Saturdays together going to Clemson football games. We shared many meals together in each other's homes. He and his wife Jan opened their home to us and our furry companions when our home was destroyed by fire in 2003. Prayers and Blessings to Jan, and the rest of his family and friends.
Danny Jones
My prayers for all of John's family and friends. I got to know John through diving trips on our boat, the Atlantic Lady out of Calabash, NC. I always loved talking with John on our trips and learning about his life and family. I lost touch when he left the Carolinas but thought about him not long ago when I was in the Prosperity area. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Amesha Davenport
Sending my love and condolences to the Perry family.. I remember growing up with my grandmother Mrs Mamie Lee Davenport and the many hours I spent at the back porch with Mr John and Mrs Jan. They treated me as if I was one of their grands.. A very sweet and loving person .. love you Mr John
Joyce Jacob
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Rest in peace
Wayne U. Cook
After reading every word I would add, that John was a big quality role model for all us boys at TREADWELL . He was also one of the most handsome, athletic dude I remember. This record of his life chronicles far more than I ever knew about his life, but it’s fair to say he was always a winner.
Barbara Shaeffer DuFour
My sincere condolences to Jan and the entire family. A beautiful legacy and so beautifully written. Prayers that you all find comfort in your memories and in John's achievements and quiet, generous successes !
Kelly Perry
I remember hearing many stories over the years from Mr. And Mrs. (Harry and Vicky) about his athleticism and artistic ability. Thoughts and prayers to Jan and the rest of the family. Lots of love! Kelly Perry, Kelsey & Dalton Carlton and Bronson & Dana Perry.