J. Perry Knight, age 84, passed away April 15, 2013, peacefully at home in Lakeland, FL, with his wife of nearly 60 years, Joyce, at his side. Born in Dublin, GA, Perry and his younger sister and brother were raised on a small farm by their widowed mother and her family during the Depression. Always gifted in math and electronics, Perry qualified for a Navy ROTC scholarship to Georgia Tech, where he majored in electrical engineering. He then served as a naval officer for three years, including combat action on the USS Helena during the Korean War. Upon returning to civilian life, Perry looked up a girl he'd met at church during his senior year at Tech; he and Joyce were soon married. After a series of jobs at electrical engineering companies in Alexandria, VA and Melbourne, FL, Perry partnered with a group of colleagues to found Systems Engineering Laboratories, which specialized in high-speed digital testing equipment, in Fort Lauderdale. Systems' products quickly became in high demand by NASA and the Air Force for the testing of rocket engines, and Systems grew substantially. After Systems went public in 1969, Perry was able to retire at age 39. Upon getting his private pilot's license, Perry discovered he had a knack for flying and bought a twin-engine Aztec, and briefly used it and subsequent aircraft for his own air charter business. Perry also served as a partner in a venture capital group, as well as on the board of directors of several start-ups, but most of his time was spent pursuing his many hobbies and interests - including ham radio, computers, service with Kiwanis, and expanding his impressive collection of WWII books and memorabilia - but especially as a loving husband, father and grandfather. In addition to his wife Joyce, Perry is survived by his son Jefferson (Vivien) Knight, Miami; daughters Jane (Mark) Phillips, Lakeland; Nancy (Laura) Knight, Wilson, NY; and Julie (David) Brown, McLean, VA; his sister Nelle Howell (Dublin, GA); and seven grandchildren. Perry will now be reunited with his beloved daughter Sallie and brother Howard Knight. Service of Remembrance will be held at Heath Funeral Chapel in Lakeland, FL, Sunday April 21 at 1pm. Donations in Perry's name gratefully accepted at First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, 72 Lake Morton Dr., Lakeland, FL 33801.
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Heath Funeral Chapel
328 South Ingraham Avenue Lakeland, FL 33801
Published in Sun-Sentinel on Apr. 18, 2013