It is with deep love and sadness that we publicly announce the passing of my father, Ernest Perry, Jr., and Darrell's father-in-love as well as best friend. As some of you may or may not know in his retirement years Darrell and I (along with my younger sister, Jaisy) honorably served as his caregivers. On November 23, 2023, he went home to be with the Lord in our home and it was quiet, peaceful and he was surrounded with love. While his departure has left all of us with a deep sense of emptiness we are blessed with the memories and love we all experienced from knowing such an incredible human being. He was a loved son, a great father, a dedicated husband, an adored brother, uncle, cousin and a cherished friend. He accomplished so much in life and left an indelible mark in this world. He was proud of Darrell and I and was one of our biggest supporters and investors. He believed in our vision to build a brand from the ground up and was always willing to help us, promote us and encourage us when times got difficult.                                                 

    He would often say "Mary, your grandfather would be so proud of you and Darrell" as his father and mother were also entrepreneurs way ahead of their time before it was trendy or more accessible for black people. He was a pioneer as well as a fierce advocate in the theater community in Chicago starting in the 70's and throughout his career. He, along with my mother, their siblings with the investment of his parents started a black theater company called, Amistad, in the late 70's to be a hub and safe space for emerging black talent that needed a break and wanted to participate in telling black stories, which was not an easy feet during that time in theater. He went on to build an illustrious acting career on stage, in television, and film. Growing up my parents would host these epic cast parties and we had an opportunity to meet some really talented and nice people. It was definitely a highlight in our upbringing. As Darrell decided to take a leap of faith in 2019 and launch his music career, my Dad was their encouraging him and showing him how to own his craft and believe in it even if others didn't. Its been an honor of ours to care for our Dad in his later years and even with his ailing body he still traveled with us, we sat around our firepit as he "supervised" us on how to keep a fire burning for hours and we listened to his stories of serving in Vietnam. Also, his love for my late mother, Alice.

    He was passionate about black history as well as black rights and as long as I can remember he would always acknowledge and shed a tear every December 4th, for the late Fred Hampton, whom he knew and believed in. There were many deaths that stayed with him in the wake of so much social and racial injustice and he made it his mission when we were growing up that we learned about it all and respected the progress accomplished on the backs of so many other greats. Many probably don't know this about him but not only did he grow up in the church but he was a junior deacon with National Baptist Convention as his mother's love and care for him in the word and will of God was toward ministry. However, my father, auditioned for and starred in a play in middle school and that is when he realized, and decided, his calling was on "the stage". He was the eldest brother to three sisters and a brother. Diane "Tootsie Roll", Deborah "Dee-Borah" and LaDonna "D'Miche'le and Michael "Cousin-Son". They all affectionately referred to him as "their favorite brother" which was the best running joke we all enjoyed over the years. He met my mother in college, and they built a beautifully complicated life together, it was not perfect but it was always real. There are hundreds of people that would and could testify to the impact their love, generosity and compassion and how it touched their lives. My late sister, Alison and my father were so brilliant. They were both very sharp and always kept me on my toes intellectually. As forward thinking as my parents were, my Aunt Wilna and her daughter, Jaisy, lived with us and we were all raised as sisters. And as life has revealed it was one of the kindest gifts they gave us. My mom passed in 2017, my sister in 2018 and my Dad last week. Out of kindness many people have offered prayers as we navigate so much consequential loss in our family but I grew up with a second mom "Woody" and sister, Jaisy, so I don't feel alone or without they have been here the entire time and continue to be. Darrell, Jaisy and I have soldiered together these last few years and it's because the love our family knew how to harness many moons ago.

    If I had an opportunity to tell my father anything, it would be thank you for leaving me in the kind and loving care of your beloved Evanston tribe as well as your loving theater community. Even in death you created safety and assurance for me. Well, Dad, you have run your race and you finished your assignment. Until we meet again, I love you, I thank you and I will forever carry you in my heart. 

Love,
Mary Hester

 


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