SHERIDAN — James “Jim” Perry began working in the lumberyard at age 16.
He didn’t stop until more than four decades later, after he had become manager and then president of Big L Corp.
Perry died unexpectedly of a heart attack Sunday at his Sheridan home. He was 64.
Perry and his best friend, Kenneth W. Lehman, worked for Lehman’s father, Kenneth J. Lehman, who started Big L Corp. in the mid-1960s. Perry was the longtime store manager and became corporate manager in 1997 and corporate president in 2002 before retiring in 2007.
Kenneth W. Lehman said he was “shocked” upon learning his friend had died.
“He was like an older brother to me in many ways,” Lehman said. “Jim was a great asset to the corporation for many many years. He was a great supporter of the community. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people and his family at Big L.”
Perry was involved in his hometown in many ways. He had served as a member of the Sheridan Village Council in years past and joined again in 2008. He was currently president pro-tem.
Village President Susan Wyckoff-McFarland said the council will appoint someone to Perry’s seat by January for the remainder of his term until the November 2012 election.
“Jim will be missed on the council,” Wyckoff-McFarland said, “Jim and I have had many conversations over the past three years, discussing concerns of the village. He was a great listener and always had a positive approach to situations.”
Wyckoff-McFarland said she has known Perry and his family almost all her life.
“He was definitely a man in Sheridan that everyone knew and liked,” she said.
Perry served on the Sheridan Community Fire Department and was currently the secretary and treasurer of the association board, which includes the village and four townships.
Roger Wilcox was village superintendent when Perry was village treasurer decades ago.
“He was a very nice man, very community-minded,” Wilcox said. “He was a very strong member of the community and was very well thought of.”
Doug Lane became village superintendent when Wilcox retired in 2002. Lane’s father, Wayne Lane, served as fire chief until 1994.
“He was an excellent manager,” Lane said of Perry. “He was good with numbers, he had a good personality and he was good with people. I always felt he was a straight shooter and a good guy. He’s one of those figures in the community that you hate to see go because they’re very hard to replace. Every town has them and every town hates to lose them.”
Perry is survived by his wife, Carol, whom he married on April 11, 1969, and their children, Tammy Lincoln of Sheridan, James Perry of Stanton and Shawn Perry of Grand Rapids.
Lincoln said her father was a Boy Scout leader and served on numerous councils at his church, St. Bernadette of Lourdes in Stanton, as well as the Knights of Columbus. Lincoln said her father loved the outdoors and was close to his three grandchildren, Zachary, Trevor and Rian.
“He did everything for everyone but himself,” Lincoln said. “He just liked to be involved.”
Mass of Christian burial will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Bernadette of Lourdes. Visitation is from 1 to 3 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at Hurst Funeral Home in Greenville.