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Longtime Ceres resident Ruth Perra dies at 87
From Staff Reports of the

Ceres (Calif.) Courier

Ruth Eleanor Hadley Perra, a long time Ceres resident and community activist who took in a foreign exchange student who became a U.S. ambassador, died Thursday, Dec. 6 in Livermore at the age of 87.

A celebration of the life was held at Harvest Presbyterian Church in Ceres on Saturday.

Born April 5, 1919 in Modesto, Ruth graduated from Modesto High School in 1938, Modesto Junior College in 1940, and Oregon State College at Corvallis in 1942.

Between July and September of 1940, Ruth and her family and a couple of schoolmates sailed from Stockton to Alaska and back in a boat built by her father at the family dairy on Rosemore Avenue in Modesto.

Ruth met her future husband, Medrick Perra, while he was working as a farmhand for her father at the Hadley dairy. They were married in the Methodist Church in Modesto on Dec. 6, 1942. They moved to Santa Monica, where they both built war planes at the Douglas Aircraft Company; Ruth worked as a quality control technician and metrologist.

After the war, the Perras returned to Medrick's hometown of Ceres. Together the couple built a home on the land adjacent to the Perra family homestead at the corner of Service and Central roads. There, they raised three children. Mrs. Perra taught third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes for 26 years at Caswell and Don Pedro elementary schools in Ceres until she retired in 1984. She also helped her husband irrigate and drive tractor on their nine-acre farm where they grew black-eye peas, alfalfa, walnuts and almonds. Ruth also developed her own nursery business, growing azaleas and rhododendrons in a greenhouse which Medrick built.

Mrs. Perra exhibited a lifelong passion for studying plants, birds and nature. She cultivated flowers and trees. Year-round, one could find plants and flowers flourishing in her yard. She enjoyed teaching students the scientific names of plants, flowers, and birds that appeared on outings and field trips.

In 1990, Mrs. Perra was named "Woman of the Year" by the Stanislaus Chapter of California Women for Agriculture, commended for her tireless work educating area youth about the importance of agriculture.

Ruth was active in Soroptimist International of Ceres, Delta Kappa Gamma (teachers' sorority), California Women for Agriculture, PEO, Persephone, the Ceres Garden Club, American Field Service, and the Tuolumne River Lodge. Mrs. Perra also served on the deacon board of Harvest Presbyterian Church, where she had been a member since the 1960s.

Mrs. Perra was one of the organizers of the first Ceres chapter of the American Field Service, which promotes international understanding through a student exchange program. The Perras changed the life of foreign exchange student Zalmay Khalilzad of Afghanistan who stayed with them in 1966 and 1967. Zalmay learned about a dramatically different culture and new ways to interact with people. Through his experience living and working on the Ceres farm, Zalmay started thinking about what he wanted to do in the world. He grew up to become a U.S. citizen and received a Ph.D from the University of Chicago. Zalmay later garnered a series of academic and diplomatic appointments, serving several U.S. presidents beginning with Ronald Reagan. Zalmay is now serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Ruth enjoyed camping with family and friends, particularly along California's North Coast. She also enjoyed scuba diving, surf fishing and abalone hunting.

She is survived by her children, Lorraine Perra Sheatsley of Livermore, Dr. Mark Walter Perra of Danville, and David Loren Perra of Modesto; her sister, Barbara Van Slyke; five grandchildren, Rob Sheatsley, Michelle Adams; Patricia Raymond, Lucas Perra, Matthew Perra; five great-grandchildren Nicole Adams, Brandon Adams, Anthony Martinez, Natalie Perra, Owen Perra; and four step-great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Medrick Perra, in July 2007; and her parents, Ruby J. Hadley and Loren S. Hadley.

Remembrances in memory of Ruth may be made to Harvest Presbyterian Church, 1813 Moffet Road, Ceres, CA 95307 and Heifer Project International, 1 World Avenue, Little Rock, AK 72202.