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Longtime leader Pat Perkinson dies at age 84

Patricia Royal Perkinson

Was former Secretary of the Commonwealth

Patricia (Pat) Royal Perkinson, 84, of “Prospect” in Topping, former Secretary of the Commonwealth and press aide to Governor Mills E. Godwin Jr., passed away on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

A longtime civic leader in Middlesex County, Mrs. Perkinson was born July 18, 1925 at “Clifton,” her ancestral home on the Dragon Run. She was a longtime resident of Richmond, and moved to “Prospect,” her antebellum family home at Topping, after she and her husband, Herbert (Bert) R. Perkinson Jr., retired. 

As a child, Mrs. Perkinson often spent her summers in Saluda with her grandparents and this nurtured an undying love of the heritage, history and culture of Middlesex County.

A graduate of Highland Springs High School, Perkinson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Richmond Professional Institute, which awarded her its Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1987.

In times when it was more difficult for a woman to break into political positions, she gained statewide recognition as the press aide to Governor Mills Godwin from 1966 to 1970, and Secretary of the Commonwealth in Godwin’s second administration, 1974-1978.

Mrs. Perkinson also served as legislative assistant to state senators Paul Manns and Frederick Gray, and as an administrative assistant to Virginia Community Colleges Chancellor Dana B. Hamel.

She was director of community services for J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College for eight years until her retirement in 1987.

Mrs. Perkinson was past president of two statewide communications organizations: the Old Dominion Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and Virginia Press Women, which named her its Woman of Distinction and twice named her Press Woman of the Year.

She also served as president of the Richmond Public Relations Association. 

She earned accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and handled public relations for a number of Richmond organizations, including the Richmond Symphony, the Valentine Museum, Richmond Department of Recreation and Parks, and the March of Dimes. 

Active in the Virginia Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS) since 1970, Mrs. Perkinson was chairman of the division board and served as a division director, and as at-large director on the national board. She was communications chairman for the Middlesex Unit of the ACS. She was awarded the society’s highest state honor, the Shelton B. Horsley Award.

Her other civic work included serving as president of the Maymont-Virginia Wildlife Exhibit and volunteer service for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, United Negro College Fund, Richmond YWCA, Salvation Army, Central Virginia Public Television, and Maymont Foundation. She also was a member of the Leadership Metro Richmond Class of 1984.

When Mrs. Perkinson retired and moved back to Middlesex, she became very involved in county activities. She was the county’s representative on the Rappahannock Community College Board, and on the Chesapeake Regional Council of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy.

She was volunteer project director for the development of a Middlesex County Heritage Tour. Under her leadership, the booklet “Rivers And Roads” was published in 1996 as a self-guided tour of historic and scenic sites in the county.

She was a contributing writer and editor of “Cemeteries in Middlesex County,” a book documenting the cemeteries of the county.

Up until her death, she was serving as co-chair of the Middlesex County History Book Committee, which is currently involved in writing a history of the county.

She loved to write and was an accomplished author. For 18 years her “Calling All Gardeners” Sunday column and other feature stories appeared in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and she was a regular columnist for Rural Virginia Magazine. She also was a writer for Fairchild Publications. 

Following her retirement, she served as president of the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club and wrote articles, stories and poetry published in Pleasant Living Magazine, Southside Sentinel and Poet’s Domain.

She was a member of the Middlesex County Woman’s Club, Ralph Wormeley Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Poetry Society of Virginia, Middlesex Poets, and the poetry group Cornucopia.

“I’ve worked here 24 years and all those years Pat has been a wonderful source of information concerning the history of the county,” said Middlesex County Assistant Administrator Marcia Jones. “She loved Middlesex and spoke so fondly of her childhood days growing up in Saluda. She would share her knowledge of life here at the courthouse and of the events that took place on the courthouse grounds. We will surely miss her.”

Claudia Soucek, co-chair with Mrs. Perkinson of the Middlesex History Book Committee, said it was Mrs. Perkinson’s vision and determination that led to the ongoing effort to have a history of Middlesex published. “She has been the driving force behind this project and we will all miss her,” said Soucek.

Pat Almond, the leader of the local Great Decisions discussion group, described Mrs. Perkinson as “a quiet dynamo who really accomplished great things.”

Mrs. Perkinson is survived by her husband, Herbert R. Perkinson Jr.; daughter, Jean  Holman of Richmond; son, Russ of Mechanicsville; two grandchildren, Ashley Ross and Rob Perkinson; and a sister, Jane Royal Owen of Wilson, N.C.

The family will receive friends Saturday, February 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bristow-Faulkner Funeral Home in Saluda. Burial in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Middlesex County Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 98, Deltaville, VA 23043; or the Rappahannock Community College Educational Foundation, 12745 College Drive, Glenns, VA 23149.

posted 02.17.2010

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