After a long and engaged life, Perry Close, PhD, Capt./USNR-Ret., passed away peacefully on April 19, in Belmont, Calif. He was 98 years old.
A man of science and self-discipline, he had credited his longevity and vitality to good habits and good luck.
Born in Chicago to still-life artist Marjorie Close and surgeon Frank M. Close, MD, Perry would soon return to their hometown of San Francisco with his mother while his father completed medical school. A student of Parkside School and Polytechnic High School, young Perry enjoyed stamp collecting, woodworking, scouting, adventure stories, roller skating around the city, and vacationing with his parents and younger sister, the late Marjorie Elliott, at the Russian River and Yosemite National Park.
In 1942, Perry put his studies at San Francisco State College on hold, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and, following naval aviator training in Corpus Christi, Tex., sailed to French Morocco and later England, where he flew anti-submarine patrols over the English Channel and Bay of Biscay. After World War II ended, he returned to the Bay Area and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. Following graduation he moved to Austin with his first wife, the late Norma Landry Close, and daughter Carole to pursue a doctorate in zoology at the University of Texas. In 1955, he earned his PhD and reentered the Navy, conducting research on aviation physiology in the Medical Service Corps.
In 1961, while stationed in Pensacola, Fla., he married Onvie Faye Kelley. A year later he moved his new family, now including stepsons Ernest and Robin and infant son Carl, to Southern California, where he conducted research in aerospace physiology at Northrop Space Labs, and then to New Orleans for work in Chrysler's Space Division. Although aerospace research offered him interesting challenges (such as helping to design space suits and prepare Miss Baker for space flight), he had longed for Northern California and life in the classroom.
In 1968, he joined the biology faculty of City College of San Francisco, where for many years he taught physiology, human genetics, and evolution, and hosted seminars on the emerging field of biotechnology. His return to the Bay Area also enabled him to rekindle his love for sailing, camping, hiking, swimming, family genealogy, and attending football games at U.C. Berkeley, and to volunteer with the Society of Western Artists and the Peninsula Open Space Trust.
Always learning, Perry continued to read voraciously after retirement, and his nightstand was piled high with science and business publications as well as books on economics and history. An avid traveler, he counted Alaska, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, Kenya's Lake Turkana, the Panama Canal, the Mississippi River, Germany's Rhine Valley, and Normandy (during the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day) among his favorite destinations. Gregarious and fun-loving, he relished playing tour guide for visiting relatives, writing the occasional silly poem, and regaling his grandchildren with life stories from a bygone era.
Mindful of his principles, he exemplified a life of healthy living, curiosity, concern for others' well-being, adherence to traditional values, careful planning, cautious optimism, and deep gratitude.
Perry Close is survived by his loving wife Onvie Faye Close of San Francisco; daughter Carole Close Vollmer of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico; son Carl Perry Close (Deirdre Graham) of Half Moon Bay, Calif.; stepson Robin Curtis Hill of Modesto; sisters-in-law Pat Sellards (Jim) and Darlene Yarborough; nephews Robert Elliott, Larry Elliott (Sally), John Elliott (Sheryl), David Challis, and Jason Yarborough (Kathy); nieces Colleen Challis Delisle (Vance), Audrey Challis Kemper, and Eva Guest (Mark); grandchildren Jeff Vollmer, Robin James Hill, Andrea Morin (Daniel), Carol Groshong, Alana Griffin, Valerie Hill, Erica Hill, and Samuel Graham Close; and great-grandchildren Malakai Morin, Akasha Morin, Jessica Cakebread, and Aaron Cakebread.
A memorial service will be planned at a later date. Donations may be made in his name to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jun. 29 to Jun. 30, 2020.