Obituary for Rev. Mary Perkins
The Reverend Mary Perkins, a resident of Riverdale and Washington Heights, passed away on Dec. 14th at 89 years old.
Reverend Perkins was one of the first female ministers in New York City who was mentored by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. After a career as a director of Christian Education at the Fort Washington Collegiate Church in Manhattan, she was ordained by the United Church of Christ where she was placed in a yoked congregation in Ft. Lee, NJ serving the Moresmere Community Church and the Grantwood Church for over two decades.
Mary was born in 1933 in Warren, Ohio the third daughter and fifth child of Greek immigrant parents. Originating from the island of Samos in Greece, her family immigrated to the U.S. through Ellis Island.
In NYC her family found enclaves of Greek families, with Greek being the language of their home. Mary went to the local public schools of upper Manhattan and graduated from George Washington High School. In her young adult years she supported her widowed father by working as an entry-level doctor’s assistant.
She knew her husband from her childhood and once Charlie returned from the Korean War they were married. They welcomed their daughter Lori Perkins a year later and had their son Richard Perkins four years later.
Always pushing herself forward, Mary went back to school and graduated from Lehman College with a teaching degree. She later pursued and graduated with three master's degrees – a religious counseling degree from the Blanton Peale Institute, a Masters in Theatre from NYU and a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary.
Mary threw herself into community service, initially as a preschool teacher at St George Church in Washington Heights. She worked at the Fort Washington Collegiate Church as the Director of Christian Education for over a decade. She built a large Sunday School and directed many plays at the Fort Washington Collegiate Church, performing one of the early plays by fellow NYU Theatre graduate John Patrick Shanley.
As a seminary student, she served as chaplain at Bellevue Hospital as one of the first to minister to AIDS patients during the early AIDS crisis.
In her retirement, Mary spent many joyous vacations with her daughter and grandson Max in their favorite “home away from home” in Belfast, Maine, where her husband’s mother was born. Mary also traveled to spend time in California with her son Richard and daughter-in-law Jackie, spoiling her West Coast grandchildren, Charlie & Caroline.
She is survived by her daughter, Lori Perkins, the publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books; her son, Richard Perkins, an L.A.-based writing teacher, and her grandchildren, Caroline and Charlie Perkins, and grandson, Max Jimenez.
A Memorial/Celebration of Life will be held in February of 2023 at the Fort Washington Collegiate Church.