Bob Perry 1932-2013

I just learned that Texas homebuilder Bob Perry died in his sleep last night at the age of 80. Many know his name from his political contributions nationally and in Texas, and I expect those will dominate the media coverage of his passing.

Bob Perry

That’s unfortunate, because there is another much more important side of Bob Perry. From Texas Monthly in 2007:

“Perhaps because he has made his money off those who can afford to buy their own homes, a significant portion of Perry’s charitable giving has targeted those who cannot. Ten miles across the border from Brownsville, through the teeming, cluttered streets of the booming Mexican city of Matamoros, is a private orphanage called the Matamoros Children’s Home. Also known as Casa Hogar, the home houses 186 orphaned, abused, abandoned, or neglected children from ages four through eighteen. It is run by a doctor named Saul Camacho and his wife, Maria. Its principal benefactor is Bob Perry.

Casa Hogar is not the only orphanage Perry supports outside the United States. There are many more in Mexico, in Reynosa and elsewhere, that I was not invited to tour, or even informed of. He supports another in El Salvador that he does acknowledge. On a tour of Casa Hogar’s brand-new, Perry-donated dining hall in January, I saw a Christmas tree covered with cards the children had made thanking Mr. Perry, as he is known, for his kindness. Perry may be alternately admired, feared, or loathed in Texas political circles, but here, he is loved. He is a frequent visitor, and the kids all know him.

According to Perry’s friends, the lesson I should draw from my tour of the orphanage is this: While it is typical of his philanthropic work, it is also just a small sample of the activities in which he has long been involved. “He has dozens and dozens of these things going at a time,” says Michael Stevens, a Houston developer who chairs the Governor’s Business Council and is one of Perry’s closest friends. “I have never called him to do something for people that he has not done. His charitable giving is far larger than what you have seen in the political arena.” He does not even tell his friends the full scope of what he does, according to Weekley. “I consider Bob a good friend, and I had no knowledge of the orphanages,” he says.

By all accounts, Perry is extraordinarily, and spontaneously, generous in his giving. It is driven by what Holm terms “the multiplier effect, the idea that he can go and help someone who is a net drain on society and turn him into a net plus. It is a version of ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ ” Though Stevens, like Perry, does not like to acknowledge his charitable gifts, he offers two examples of projects he and Perry have developed together. One aims to give jobs to soldiers who have lost limbs in the war in Iraq. Stevens says the two men have sunk “hundreds of thousands of dollars” into the project. “We plan to roll it out in six months,” he says. “The plan is to get corporations throughout the U.S. to employ injured veterans.” The other project is typical of what friends say is the more personal side of Perry’s giving. When former U. S. attorney Michael Shelby, a man Perry and Stevens admired greatly, died after a long struggle with cancer, the two men made sizable donations to a college scholarship fund for his children. “This kind of thing happens all of the time,” says Stevens. Indeed, one of Perry’s classmates from Meridian High School says that this sort of private, personal charity extends to his old hometown. “Over the years, any of the people we went to high school with who had money problems, he helped them,” says Hiram Woosley, who played in the backfield with Perry for the Meridian High Yellow Jackets.”

The book of John tells how “talking a good game” simply isn’t good enough.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

God’s love was in Bob Perry.

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