1932 – 2013

WEST PARIS — Joseph A. “Joe” Perham passed away Wednesday, Aug. 28, of Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 80 years old.

A renowned American humorist, folklorist, storyteller and educator, Joe was born in West Paris on Oct. 26, 1932, to Harold C. “Red” and Mary “Mazie” Slattery Perham. Joe was one of 13 farm children, a fact that he frequently alluded to in his storytelling. “I never slept alone ’til I was married,” and “No sir! I’m bringing that bull out to see YOU!” typified his sense of family and of humor.

Joe graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Colby College in 1955 and went on to earn advanced degrees in English and education from the University of Maine. A “B.S., and any farm boy can tell you what that stands for, a M.S., or ‘More of the Same’ and a PhD., just ‘Piled Higher and Deeper’.” He never missed a single day in his 26 years of classroom instruction in English literature, speech and drama, inspiring an entire generation of high school students at Paris High School, Leavitt Institute and Oxford Hills High School, where he served as head of the English department. After retiring at the age of 48, Joe continued to shape young minds as an “Artist in Residence” at elementary schools across the state.

In 1954, Joe married the love of his life, Peg Grover, and they had four children. “JodyCathy DavidChip!” as he was wont to say, ensuring his message got to the right recipient. Seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, along with his cat, George, followed and he loved them all fully and without reservation.

All the world was Joe’s stage, and he strutted and fretted his hours thereon with unabashed magnificence. Joe drew the spotlight like a lantern draws smelt. He WAS Hamlet, Willie Loman, Rubashov and Bard. He resurrected Holman Day, Artemus Ward, Solomon Chase and Abraham Lincoln.

He wrote, produced and performed 17 best-selling albums of Maine humor and folklore. His television credits include six PBS specials, “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt, “In the Kitchen” with Kendall Morse, and commercials for the Boston Red Sox, NBC “Game of the Week” and the Maine State Lottery. He received the Broderson Award for writing and artists for his radio commercials for the Maine Office of Tourism. He appeared in two films, Stephen King’s “Graveyard Shift” and “Bed and Breakfast” with his wife, Peg, along with Roger Moore.

A Universalist lay preacher, Joe “married ’em and buried ’em.” He compassionately served the congregations of several area churches, writing and delivering his own sermons and officiating hundreds of weddings and funerals. Joe was a 50-year member of the Masonic Granite Lodge of West Paris, where he proudly served, advancing through every chair. Joe was also very much in-demand as an after dinner speaker, a Maine Touring Artist, an auctioneer and square dance caller. An avid hunter, fisherman and member of the Biggest Bucks of Maine Club, Joe was feared by big game from Maine to Alaska.

Joe is survived by Peg, his wife of 59 years; his four children, Joseph Jr. of Howland, Catherine and husband, Raymond Hicks, of Charlottesville, Va., David and wife, Inga, of Eugene, Ore., and Christopher “Chip” of Natick, Mass.; seven grandchildren, Jara and husband, Sean Wilson, of South Paris, Luke Gizinski of Lewiston, Fiona Gizinski and husband, Angelo Diaz Brandon, of Florida, Meryl Gizinski of Tampa, Fla., Mary Amelia Hicks of Charlottesville, Va., Grant Perham of Glen Carbon, Ill., and Graham Perham of Eugene, Ore.; nine great-grandchildren, Nadja Ward, Ashlee, Caden, Reagan and Kennedy Wilson, Kloe Gizinski, Niaya, Angel and Hayden Diaz; four sisters, Margaret “Peggy” and husband, Gilbert Turner, Mary Ann Brown, Martha and husband, Roger Sirois, and Nancy Perham; five brothers, Alfred C. Perham and wife, Dotty, Roscoe E. Perham and wife, Fay, Bradley L. Perham, Douglas A. Perham and John L. Perham and wife, Iris; and hundreds of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends.

Joe was predeceased by his parents; two brothers, Harold C. Perham Jr. and Sidney D. Perham; a sister, Natalie N. Rice; sisters-in-law, Sarah Perham, Mary Ann Perham and Kathy Perham; and brothers-in-law, Herbert J. Rice Jr. and Raymond “Ray” Brown.

Joe’s family would like to express their gratitude to the special staff at Ledgeview Living Center in West Paris who cared for and about Joe over the last 15 months of his life, and for the many kindnesses extended to his family.

“Let the work I do …

Let the love I share …

Let the friends I have …

Let the life I lead …

speak for me.” — Hymn

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