Juanita Wilkes, daughters Faye Perry, Brenda Wilkes, shared many interests

October 16, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

The best of buddies, they were always "as close as a phone call." Faye Wilkes Perry lived in North Baltimore; her mother, Juanita Wilkes, and sister, Brenda Wilkes, lived together in Clinton.

They called each other regularly and met several times a month to shop or have lunch or trek to the racetrack at Dover Downs in Delaware.

But that trip ended in tragedy Oct. 9. All three women were killed when their car collided with a tractor-trailer near Centreville as they returned from Dover Downs.

Police said Mrs. Perry, 50, was driving a Honda Prelude west on Route 302 when the car hit the 18-wheeler at Route 301. All were declared dead at the scene. Juanita Wilkes was 79; Brenda Wilkes, 49.

"There were never more than a couple of days when they didn't get together," said A. Recardo Perry, Mrs. Perry's husband. "They were a very close family. All three got together to have a good time. They enjoyed just being together."

Most often, the trio would go shopping, but occasionally they drove to Dover Downs to "lose a few quarters," Mr. Perry said. "It was just a way for them to stay together," he said. Juanita Wilkes "usually just went along for the ride."

Aside from family, church was the most important element in their lives, Mr. Perry said. Attached to the refrigerator at Mrs. Perry's East Lake Avenue home was a phrase that she often referred to: "Life is God's gift to you. What you make of it is your gift to God."

Mrs. Perry belonged to St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church on Loch Raven Boulevard and was heavily involved in its recent 50th anniversary celebration.

"After her job, she'd go to church until about 10: 30 [p.m.] or so," Mr. Perry said. "The focus of all three of their lives was church. [Mrs. Perry] worked hard and tirelessly. She wasn't into titles, she wanted to serve well."

The Rev. Joseph L. Muth Jr., the church's priest, said Mrs. Perry relished being a part of church activities. "She had a quiet way of doing things," Father Muth said. "She was always in situations helping to bring people together -- not in a boisterous way, but in a humble way."

A native of Clinton, Mrs. Perry had lived in Baltimore since 1971, when she and Mr. Perry married. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1975 and a master's degree in business administration in 1978, both from Morgan State University.

She worked as an administrative assistant at Morgan from 1975 to 1978 and was a financial aid officer at the Johns Hopkins University from 1981 to 1984, when she became the school's assistant director of financial aid.

From 1986 to 1996, Mrs. Perry was director of financial aid at Goucher College. She was a consultant in the financial aid department at the University of Baltimore at her death.

Mrs. Perry was a member of the Morgan State University Alumni Association, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Eastern Association of Financial Aid Administrators.

Her sister, Brenda Wilkes, graduated from Howard University with a degree in elementary education in 1972 and later earned a master's degree.

PTC Since 1991, she had worked as an executive assistant at the Kingsbury Center for learning disabilities in Washington.

Their mother, the former Juanita Newman, married Justin Austin Wilkes in 1939. She worked for many years as an aide for disabled children for the Prince George's County school system. Mr. Wilkes died in 1968.

Friends and relatives remember the three planning surprises for each other at holidays and on birthdays.

"Their surprises were some of the biggest unkept secrets because the other always knew," said Harold Sye, of Upper Marlboro, who has known the family for more than 30 years. "They had a very unique relationship. They treated Mom just like one of the girls, but they respected her, too. When Mom spoke, they listened. When Mom said, 'Do,' they did."

Services for the women are scheduled for 10 a.m. today at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 8908 Old Branch Ave. in Clinton. A memorial service for Mrs. Perry is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church, 5401 Loch Raven Blvd.

Juanita Wilkes is survived by four sons, Joseph Wilkes of Washington, William Wilkes of Clinton, Stephen Wilkes of Alexandria, Va., and Philip Wilkes of Upper Marlboro; and a daughter, Sharon Wilkes Bowden of Clinton; two brothers, Joseph "Bud" Newman of Clinton and John Newman of Rosaryville; two sisters, Burnette Ames of Washington and Gladys Benton of Brandywine; 10 grandchildren; and a great granddaughter.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Perry is survived by two sons, Marc Perry of Atlanta and Clay Perry of Baltimore.

Brenda Wilkes is survived by her companion, Gregory Dean of Washington.

Mrs. Perry and Brenda Wilkes are also survived by their sister and four brothers.

Donations may be made to the Faye Wilkes-Perry Scholarship Fund, St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church, c/o Michelle Sheldon-Rubio, 5401 Loch Raven Blvd., 21239.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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