Perry Grant Keithley II
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Perry Grant Keithley II

Perry Keithley passed away peacefully on April 4, 2019, in Lacey, Washington, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, at the age of 83. Perry was a much-loved husband, father, grandfather, friend, educator, statistician, storyteller, musician, newspaper lover, and editor of any printed matter put before him.

Born Perry Grant Keithley II on March 16, 1936, in Tacoma, Washington, he was the only child of Perry Grant Keithley and Alma Stewart Keithley. His mother insisted the Roman numeral be placed on his birth certificate because she did not want him to be called "Junior." Perry never lived outside the State of Washington, nor did he want to. His parents were born in the state and all four of his grandparents lived in Washington before 1900. His great-grandmother Martha Grand Ronde Neal was born on the Oregon Trail, in 1844, on a wagon train heading west. In his life, Perry traversed the entirety of the state. There was no town in Washington he had not visited, and rarely could you name a place in the state where he did not know someone. Perry began his early schooling at Midland School. His father was a principal and superintendent of the Midland School District and his mother became a teacher there during World War II when schools were short-handed. The family lived in Tacoma and drove to Midland each day. Beginning in second grade, Perry was enrolled in his neighborhood school, and for the next eleven years he walked to Whitman Elementary School, Stewart Junior High School, and then Lincoln High School. He made good friends and maintained those friendships all his life.

Perry attended college at the University of Washington. As an undergraduate, he preferred extracurricular activities to scholarly pursuits-he joined a fraternity his freshman year, drove to Pacific Coast Conference football games with friends, and attended every musical event on campus that he could find. Perry loved music, and used to walk into the music department just to sit and listen to the musicians who happened to be rehearsing that day. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and education, and a teaching certificate. He had joined the Army ROTC, and upon graduating, received his commission in August of 1958 as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, for six months, and remained active in the Tacoma unit of the Army Reserve for many years, attaining the rank of Captain. After two years of teaching math at Stewart Junior High School, Perry accepted a job offer with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia. He toured the state speaking to educators about civil defense. With his gift of telling funny jokes and great stories, he was much in demand as a speaker. His boss was Superintendent Louis Bruno; over the years, Perry would work for four different Superintendents of Public Instruction.

In 1966 Perry married Judith McDonnell, a school teacher in the Edmonds School District. He was working as a budget statistician in the finance department at SPI. Two years later Perry received a national graduate fellowship at Washington State University to study educational administration. He and Judy moved to Pullman, Washington, where Perry earned a master's degree in education and Judy taught school. After two years at WSU, they moved back to Olympia, where their two sons were born in 1970 and 1972. Perry continued working on his dissertation for four years and received his doctorate in 1974.

In 1970, Perry became a lobbyist for the Washington Education Association. He became well-versed in school finance, and attended legislative hearings, breakfasts, political dinners, and everything in between. His specialty was budget appropriations for schools, and he was often called upon to speak before legislative committees, school administrators, and teachers' groups. Legislators and staffers on both sides of the aisle valued his integrity, honesty, and forthrightness.

In 1984 Frank "Buster" Brouillet, Superintendent of Public Instruction, hired Perry to be Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services. Perry loved the work and the people. When asked about the long hours he put in, Perry's reply was that it was all part of the job and it was for a good cause. Despite the demands of his work, he never missed a single one of his sons' musical or athletic events. About thirteen years later, after retiring from SPI, he accepted a job lobbying for the Washington State Hospital Association and Group Health Cooperative, and enjoyed the new statistics, new goals, and new friends.

Perry loved to drive, and seemed to have road maps of entire cities and states committed to memory. He could drive virtually nonstop from Olympia to the Rose Bowl in sixteen hours flat. (On one such trip he told his passenger, "Don't order that-it takes too long to cook.") Perry had a colorful vocabulary, which made frequent appearances at the wheel. When his son Blair, a Navy pilot, was cussed out by a flight instructor, Blair just shrugged and said it was nothing compared to learning to drive with Dad.

Music was a constant theme throughout Perry's life. His father sang barbershop and his mother was a superb whistler. Perry began taking piano lessons as a child; in high school he also played double bass and timpani. He loved going to the Seattle Symphony, the Olympia Symphony, Broadway shows, the opera, Willie Nelson concerts, and New Orleans jazz clubs. He loved all music, particularly classical, ragtime, country, bossa nova, marches, boogie-woogie, songs of the 30s and 40s, and Dixieland. Perry played the piano joyously, and listening to him was a delight. The notes on his sheet music were mere suggestions, which he embellished and arpeggiated with an effortlessly light touch. He played the piano until the last month of his life.

Perry is survived by Judy, his wife of 52 years, and his sons Todd (Meredith) and Blair (Lisa). In order of age, his grandchildren are Aden, Silas, Talia, Rosemary, and Tess. Perry is also survived by Susan McArthur, a first cousin, and her family; his brother-in-law, James McDonnell; two nephews, Ryan and Dana; and a multitude of cousins. His wife's relatives considered Perry one of their own. He is deeply missed.

If you wish to honor Perry's memory in some way, please consider a donation to the Olympia Symphony, 3400 Capitol Blvd. S.E., Suite 203, Olympia, WA 98501,

The celebration of Perry's life, scheduled for the first of August, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regretfully, it will not be rescheduled. In lieu of the memorial, please share your favorite stories and memories of Perry for everyone to enjoy, at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times on Jun. 27, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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6 entries
July 1, 2020
During my time at OSPI, I considered Perry to be a mentor. He was always there and willing to offer support. I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and his professional insights. I visited with him a couple of weeks before he passed. His body was giving up but his quick wit was still there. I will miss him.
Ed Strozyk
June 30, 2020
Miss him!
Blair Patrick
June 30, 2020
Judy, Im sorry to read of your loss of Perry. I have fond memories of the Pilant-Keithley-Bernard-Torgerson gatherings over the years. Always enjoyed Perrys kindness and humor. Much love to you and your family.

Laura Pilant Duvall
Laura Pilant Duvall
June 29, 2020
So sorry for you at this time of loss. While I didn't know Perry I am impressed with a life well lived and my thoughts are with you and your family. I remember you with fond memories of my student-teaching with you at Edmonds Elem in1965.
Dave Stump
June 28, 2020
Thank you for your service
Don SR
June 28, 2020
Judy, sorry to learn of your loss. Perry was always a positive and energetic soul. I always felt a connection to him having attended the junior high named for his family. Take care.
Bill Peabody
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