Lee Perlman was one of our ace reporters here at The Southeast Examiner. He knew how to meet deadlines, follow local news and tell great stories. Lee was our intrepid reporter and our relationship goes back to when we first purchased the paper in 1996. He has written for us consistently since then. I truly enjoyed every interaction we had, as he was always wry, funny and informative. I would often tease that I needed him to“pull a rabbit out of his hat,” for newspaper content–which he obligingly did.
Lee Perlman is one of a kind and he leaves very big shoes to fill. Other tributes follow below.
Nancy Tannler, Editor
Lee Perlman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 27, 1949. His parents, Samuel and Lucille Perlman, were both involved in the Civil Rights movement and other social justice causes of the time.
He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and attended Boston University, where he majored in journalism. After graduating in 1970, Lee returned to New York City where he worked for the independent National Guardian. In 1972, Lee left New York; after driving slowly across the country, he landed in Portland where he remained for the rest of his life.
Lee loved Portland and, as a journalist, was very concerned with issues that directly affected its citizens. Whether attending a street fair or bringing to light stories of the homeless, the hungry and the marginally employed, Lee retained that sense of social justice that defined the environment he was raised in.
While he wrestled with the complexity of urban renewal, mayoral recalls and budget cuts, Lee delighted in bringing his readers stories of hope and beauty, such as his series on community gardens and the fine work of the Sisters of the Road.
Lee had a terrific memory and he delighted in quoting verbatim from books he had read throughout his life. He could sing lyrics from any song he had ever heard – even obscure vaudeville tunes his father enjoyed. Until he was sidelined by an injury, Lee ran many half-marathons. In typical Lee fashion, he ran them while wearing jeans and work boots.
Although he stayed in regular touch with his family in New York, he only returned to New York at Christmas time. He would unpack his bag, pulling out silkscreened scarves, pottery and small sculptures made by Portland artists. He would also bring a number of his articles and columns he thought would be of interest to the family. Lee would delight his elderly mother by reading to her for hours at a time.
Lee died unexpectedly at home on August 8, 2013. He is survived by his mother, Lucille; brother, Bill; sister-in-law, Patricia; nieces Deirdre and Michelle; nephew, Philippe; many loving cousins; and his dear friend Anne McLaughlin.
Memorial services will be private. Lee had always requested that in the event of his death, his friends and loved ones reread the last lines in his favorite novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge: “I ask that no one grieves on account of me, and that I not be buried in consecrated ground. And that no sexton be asked to toll the bell, and no mourners walk at my funeral.”
Those who knew and loved Lee should not be surprised by his wishes. He was a quiet, private and thoughtful man who will be dearly missed.
— Information provided by Bill and Patricia Perlman
The community is invited to attend a remembrance/memorial event for Lee, Sunday, September. 15, at 4 pm at The Lorenzen Center/Legacy Emanuel Hospital. This was the site of many a meeting in Lee’s Eliot neighborhood. Legacy Emanuel is on N. Vancouver Ave. between Russell St. and the east end of the Fremont Bridge. Go to www.facebook.com/LeePerlmanMemorial for updates or to post remembrances/reflections.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to The Sisters of the Road, 133 NW 6th Ave., Portland, Oregon. 97209
Lee Perlman’s focused and tenacious reporting of citizen-involved participation and leadership in Portland planning and development gave the stories and all their participants, that the rest of the media ignored, merit and helped to ensure an informed greater community. He was deeply committed to the neighborhood system, and its role in Portland’s future as his decades of efforts show. His death leaves a sad and hollow void where the report should regularly be, and we have all lost someone we counted on and called friend.––Susan Lindsay
“Lee was a true reporter, the likes of which we may be seeing the last of. Whenever I spoke to Lee it was with complete trust that he would “get it right” and if we spoke off the record I always knew it was safe with him.” –– Tim Holmes
“I just learned that Lee Perlman passed away last week. As a long-practicing journalist specializing in neighborhood concerns, we have all been touched by his work, his signature sense of humor and his amazing institutional memory. I know our board meetings will not be the same without him.”
“I knew Lee Perlman in his younger years, wavy black hair and beard. Sitting in meetings with his right hand spinning hair on the top of his head, at the same time spinning hair in his beard with his left hand, telling stories, with a bright twinkle in his eyes. We both completed Neighborhood Need Reports on SE 39th Avenue –– his, requesting a left turn signal at SE 39th and Division and mine, requesting one at SE 39th and Stark. Within two-years, Traffic Engineers had plans to install additional left turn signals from Burnside to Powell. We reviewed the Comp Plan from 1978 to the present Draft in 2014. Recently, monitoring the West Hayden Island Annexation work sessions. Lee Perlman was on first-name basis with the Planning and Sustainability Commissioners, the Mayor and City Commissioners, Metro Councilors, Multnomah County Chair and Commissioners, as well as the Portland Development Commissioners and City Bureau Staff. He also monitored the Portland Public Schools High School Redesign as related to inner SE.
Our last conversation took place in Southeast Uplift. With a sparkle in his eyes, asked if I liked the picture he took of me crossing Burnside with the newly elected Mayor Charlie Hales. He was quick to congratulate me for in getting the new safe-routes-to-school cross-walk installed at 16th and Burnside. I promised we’d celebrate officially, when the yellow blinking lights were installed and he agreed.
Lee’s heartfelt friendship is what I miss most.
––Mary Ann Schwab