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Lee Perlman 1949-2013: Epilogue

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Lee Perlman 1949-2013: Epilogue
Preface by Tim Curran, Publisher,
Mid-county Memo

In June 2004, at the 30th Anniversary event for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Perlman chats with Margaret Strachan, a City Commissioner from 1981-86.
Mid-county Memo photos/Tim Curran
In June 2012, Perlman entertains Karen Fischer Gray Parkrose School District superintendent and Rich Riegel, former colleague and Mid-county Memo executive editor with a story.
In September 2007, Perlman attends an Argay Neighborhood Association meeting. To get a front row seat and hear speakers optimally, Perlman made it a practice, when he could, to arrive early for the hundreds of meetings attended annual
“Death isn't what you think; you can understand yourself better after death.” - David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) from his short story “Good Old Neon” published in Oblivion: Stories

Memo readers know Lee Perlman's work.

Writing for neighborhood newspapers in different parts of Portland for more than 30 years made Lee Perlman ubiquitous at city and neighborhood meetings. His life's mission was to absorb, understand and interpret how his adopted city governed.

I met Lee Perlman when I was hired to sell ads for six neighborhood newspapers in March 1988. He was reporting for the Memo and the five other neighborhood papers owned by a husband and wife team. Three years later, when I bought the Memo from my employer, there was no question Perlman would continue to write for the paper.

Lee was similar, but also different from every other journalist I've ever met. He was erudite, quirky, sardonic, modest and wryly humorous. He was a highly intelligent and principled man who loved to tell stories both on the page and orally.

Rich Riegel, Perlman's colleague for many years, accurately described him as a “curmudgeonly self-contained writing machine.”

Despite this publisher's hope that Lee would personalize or popularize his pieces, he never did. For Perlman, it was just straight-ahead reporting of both large and small issues affecting Portlanders; and I was happy to get that.

Lee Perlman is irreplaceable.

The last week of his life, Lee had the perfect aliveness of a person about to commit suicide. Like every month, we were going back and forth on what he was writing for the next issue.

It wasn't until after his death that we learned he battled depression for years.

I knew Lee Perlman for decades, but I didn't know the man.

After much thought and consultation I decided readers are entitled to the final words he wrote to us that came in the form of a resignation letter emailed Monday, Aug. 5.

In hindsight, his note takes on an entirely different meaning; Lee's letter is his epilogue, certainly not his epitaph.

I do not agree with Lee here; he may have made a mistake now and then, but he was a great writer.

His opinion of himself cannot be denied, but is it true? We cannot deny his truth, but we can deny his perception of himself.

Sometimes perception is reality; however, many times, it is just perception. Truth is always there, but a slippery and hard thing to get to.

Everyone loved Lee Perlman, except Lee Perlman.

Lee Perlman, reporter, dies

Lee Perlman was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on January 27, 1949. His parents, Samuel and Lucille Perlman, were both involved in the civil rights movement and other social justice causes of the time. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and attended Boston University, where he majored in journalism. After graduating in 1970, Lee returned to New York City where he worked for a left-wing newspaper called the National Guardian. In 1972, Lee left New York; after driving slowly across the country, he landed in Portland, OR, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Lee loved Portland and, as a journalist, was very concerned with many issues that directly affected its citizens. Whether attending a street fair or bringing to light stories of the homeless, the hungry and the marginally employed, Lee retained that sense of social justice that defined the environment he was raised in. While he wrestled with the complexity of urban renewal, mayoral recalls and budget cuts, Lee delighted in bringing his readers stories of hope and beauty, such as his series on community gardens and the fine work of the Sisters of the Road.

Lee had a terrific memory and delighted in quoting verbatim from books he had read throughout his life. He could also sing the lyrics from any song he had ever heard, even the obscure vaudeville tunes that his father enjoyed. Until sidelined by an injury, Lee ran many half-marathons. In typical Lee fashion, he ran them while wearing jeans and work boots.

Although he stayed in regular touch with his family in New York, he only returned to New York at Christmas time. He would unpack his bag, pulling out silkscreened scarves, pottery and small sculptures made by Portland artists. He would also bring a number of his articles and columns that he thought would be of interest to the family. Lee would delight his elderly mother by reading to her for hours at a time.

Lee died unexpectedly at home on Aug. 8, 2013. His mother, Lucille; brother, Bill; sister-in-law, Patricia; nieces Deirdre and Michelle; nephew, Philippe; many loving cousins; and his dear friend Anne McLaughlin survive him.

Services will be private. Lee had always requested that in the event of his death, his friends and loved ones reread the last lines in his favorite novel, “The Mayor of Casterbridge,” “I ask that no one grieves on account of me, and that I not be buried in consecrated ground. And that no sexton be asked to toll the bell, and no mourners walk at my funeral.”

Those who knew and loved Lee should not be surprised by his wishes. He was a quiet, private and thoughtful man who will be dearly missed.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Sisters of the Road, 133 N.W. 6th Ave., Portland, OR 97209.

-Provided by Bill and Patricia Perlman
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