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Medrick Perra raised crops, ambassador

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Medrick Perra raised crops, ambassador


POSTED August 1, 2007 10:06 a.m.
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Perra died Tuesday, July 24 at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.

With his wife Ruth, Medrick hosted Khalilizad, a foreign exchange student, in their home for one year in the late 1960s. He grew up to become a U.S. citizen, received advanced degrees and later garnered a series of diplomatic appointments, serving several presidents beginning with Ronald Reagan and is now serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Born June 21, 1917, Mr. Perra was a native of St. Paul, Minn. He grew up in a farming household with siblings Evelyn, Richard, Walter and Joe. Ida and Richard Perra moved their family to California in the late 1920's.

Medrick was a graduate of Modesto High School (1935), which he chose to attend because of his interest in aeronautics (not offered at Ceres High School at that time). He worked on his parents' farm from 1935 to 1937, then served in the Navy from 1937 to 1941. After returning to Modesto, Medrick attended Modesto Junior College, studying mechanical design.

Medrick met his bride-to-be while doing farm work for her father, Loren Hadley, at her family's dairy farm on Rosemore Avenue in Modesto. Ruth Eleanor Hadley and Medrick were married in 1942. The newlyweds moved to Santa Monica, where they were both employed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Mr. Perra continued to study aeronautical engineering part-time at the University of California, Los Angeles, a sponsor of his employer.

When World War II ended, the Perras returned to Ceres to build a home on the land adjacent to the Perra family homestead, at the corner of Service Road and Central Avenue in Ceres. There, Ruth and Medrick raised three children, as well as azaleas, beans, walnuts and almonds.

During the day Medrick worked as an engineer for precision tool and die. In the evenings he was a farmer of his nine acres. His engineering work ranged from designing and fabricating equipment for cultivating land and moving earth to machining high precision rocket motor components vital for getting U.S. astronauts to the moon and back. Later in his career he designed machine tools for the bottling process at the E.&J. Gallo Co.

Known for his engineering mind, friends and family would seek his advice in how mechanical things worked. He helped the Jorgensen family build a miniature locomotive at Bob's Yuletide Forest in Ceres from rail cars from a fruit-drying yard and a lawn mower engine. Thousands of school aged children enjoyed the train during the Christmas season.

He also pioneered ways to reduce the manual labor involved in harvesting walnuts. He fostered similar interests and abilities in his children with projects like constructing wagons, go-carts and tandem bicycles from recycled materials. In addition to building children's vehicles, Medrick also enjoyed restoring antique automobiles, his favorite being a 1939 LaSalle coupe.

Mr. Perra enjoyed famly vacations in Ft. Bragg, scuba diving, surf fishing and abalone hunting and also trailer camping on the North Coast with relatives and friends.

He also participated in the American Field Service, Ceres Lions Club, Tuolumne River Lodge, Harvest Presbyterian Church and the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Mr. Perra leaves behind his wife of more than 64 years, Ruth Eleanor Hadley Perra of Modesto; his children, Lorraine Perra Sheatsley of Livermore, Dr. Mark Walter Perra of Danville, and David Loren Perra of Modesto; his brother, Joe DeWayne Perra of Tumwater, Wash.; five grandchildren, Rob Sheatsley, Michelle Adams; Patricia Raymond, Lucas Perra, Matthew Perra; and five great-grandchildren and four step-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ida E. and Richard M. Perra; two brothers during the war years: Richard Gordon Perra (1943) and Walter Francis Perra (1944), and his sister, Evelyn Perra Van Dersen, in 2002.

A celebration of the life will be held at Harvest Presbyterian Church in Ceres on Saturday, August 4 at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon.

Remembrances may be sent to Harvest Presbyterian Church, 1813 Moffet Road, Ceres, CA 95307; or to the Ceres Lions Club, P.O. Box 562, Ceres CA 95307.
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