Local COVID-19 victim taught life lessons as principal, youth referee

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry, 49, who died Tuesday morning of complications related to COVID-19, was respected as an educator and as a youth sports referee.

G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry, 49, who died Tuesday morning of complications related to COVID-19, was respected as an educator and as a youth sports referee. (Courtesy photo)

Perry was a referee for well more than a decade and his friend and fellow referee Ben Pinckney says he loved every minute of it.

"He loved it because of the interaction with the kids. He liked the kids and they liked them," Pinckney.

"A lot of kids knew him. That's the reason he did it."

Midway Premier League Founder Paul Deleon said Perry was there from the moment his organization was founded in 2017 and said he was a leader and the best at what he did.

"He brought experience and credibility to everything he did for us," he said.

"The kids all knew him, loved him and listened to him."

As soon as word of Perry’s death spread, Deleon looked back on photographs from the Saturdays he spent officiating flag football and basketball games.

There is one picture that speaks volumes, he says.

"I remember at one game he stopped it when it got physical and he brought the teams together and we got a picture of it," DeLeon said.

"He told them to calm it down and I remember the game going so much smoother after that."

Keith Hannah said Perry often officiated his children’s youth sports games and always took time to speak to them before, during and after his games.

He recalls one time after he yelled something to his 8-year-old, correcting him on the basketball court, Perry turned and reminded him his son was doing his best.

"I vividly remember just this past year, I was sitting on the front row watching Kingston play and getting on Kingston for not doing something right. Phillip came over and said 'Hannah, the kid is having a pretty good game, he got this.’"

Chris Ajose, who coaches the Youth Lady Bears, which includes girls from 8 to 12, has competed in many games with Perry behind the whistle.

"I respect and love people like Mr. Perry," Ajose said.

"It's more than a game to people like him. It's more of being there for the youth."

Ajose said Perry would break down calls for him after games and often told him how he appreciated the effort he put into coaching youth.

"He spoke positive words to me many times," Ajose said.

"He would tell me he loved what I was doing not only with my daughters but youth teams. People like Mr. Perry will always have a special place in my heart because of the valuable role they play in our kids today."