Woman’s Club honors Dee Perry as Woman of the Year

Laguna Beach school board member Dee Perry speaks at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach on June 17. Photo by Tasmin McGill

By Tasmin McGill, Special to the Independent

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach honored 2022 Woman of the Year, Dee Perry, at its first celebration in two years on June 17.

The clubhouse was decorated in a Hawaiian theme and filled to the brim with family and friends donning floral dresses and Aloha shirts. At the front of the room sat Perry with leis around her neck and flanked by her husband, son and friends. Throughout the event, tributes showcased the lasting impressions Perry leaves on the people and community around her.  

A variety of factors go into what makes a Woman of the Year candidate such as resilience in the face of adversity and leading change within the community. Out of five other nominees, Perry was awarded the honor after ballots were mailed to the 135 members of the Club.

Friend and former colleague at Laguna Beach Unified School District, Tamara Wong, spoke of Perry’s 37 years of contributions to the classes she taught and the lasting impressions she has left on students. 

“You have taught countless kids and have always had their best interests in mind when planning lessons,” Wong said to Perry. “This is a heartfelt thank you for being a teacher and for standing up for what is right and trying to do the best job for the students, teachers and parents in our community.”

Perry’s husband Jim Perry spoke of her love for adventure and the unexpected twists and turns that come with them. He also acknowledges Perry doesn’t fear the idea of failing, or even acknowledge the concept. Proof of how Perry has fought for what she believes is right during her time on the Laguna Beach school board. 

“The most remarkable display of courage I have witnessed,” Jim recalls of Perry’s time on the board over the years. “Dee has a heart of gold. If you need help, Dee will be there for you.”

Laguna Beach school board member Dee Perry (center) and husband Jim Perry listen to a speaker at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach. Photo by Tasmin McGill

After Perry was diagnosed with cancer, she retired early from teaching to reduce stress according to her son, Corey Namba. However, nothing stopped Perry from being involved in a multitude of things in Laguna Beach. 

Not only is Perry on Board of the Woman’s Club, but she is also a part of the Laguna Beach Garden Club, serves in the Crystal Cove Art Council, and leads tours at the Laguna Arts Museum. 

“Rather than taking it easy, she jumped into groups and boards to serve her community, sacrificing not just a ton of time, but a lot of stress and emotional equity,” Namba said. “She deserves to feel the positive impact that she’s had.”

Toward the end of the event, Perry joined her Hula instructor, Hilde Pedersen Otterholdt, for an impromptu dance performance which was accompanied by Brian Opengaard on the ukulele. Perry chose the Hawaiian theme as an homage to her childhood trip in 1965 with her grandmother. 

Sharing her appreciation for Hawaiian culture and the meaning of family, Perry thanked all the groups she calls her family or “ohana.” From the Laguna Beach Garden Club “ohana” to the art museum “ohana.” Even the smaller groups within the Woman’s Club “ohana”, like her book club and hiking ohanas, Perry expressed her gratitude for their unwavering support. 

“I appreciate all the women here supporting women and everyone who is working to make something better,” Perry said. “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for each of you and you are all a part of my ohana. Mahalo nui loa. Thank you all very much.”

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