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What Happened to Perry

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Written by Julie M. Watkins

Perry Richard Crosby, taken a few months before he was hit and killed by a hit and run driver on June 10, 1978. He was 24 years old.

June 10

"Oh my God! Oh my God!"

The words shattered my sleep. 6:15 a.m. blinked at me from across the room. I slipped off my bed and opened my bedroom door.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" my mother cried repeatedly as my sister helped her dress.

"Mom." Nancy tried feebly to calm her as she struggled mom into a pair of slacks. They descended the stairs. I followed, an unknown force keeping me a spectator.

The police officer, gripping his hat in his slender fingers, spoke,"Mrs. French, do you have a son named Perry Crosby?"

Police Officer?

"Oh my God!" My mother clutched her bosom in answer.

"I'm afraid there has been an accident. Your son was struck by a vehicle while walking home last night. His body was found on Rt. 7 early this morning."

"No! He was at a party last night." Mom cried in denial. Her eyes searched the officer's face for a sign that it wasn't so.

An accident?

"It seems he left the party shortly after midnight to walk home. Two fishermen from Stockton Springs found his body on Evan's hill early this morning."

"Where is he now?" my sister asked, as though he had merely stepped out a moment ago.

"The body has been sent to Bangor for an autopsy. Where would you like his remains delivered after the autopsy?" The words were spoken with formality.


"Are you sure it's Perry?" Mom's words echoed my thoughts as she clung to the kitchen table.

"Mrs. French, I'm very sorry." The hat turned round and round.

Dazed, she answered his question. "Rackliffe's Funeral Home in Belfast." Her face whitened, and she sank, slowly, into a chair.

"We will need someone from the family to claim the body. It should arrive at the funeral home this afternoon."

My mother nodded weakly.

His remains?

"If you need anything…" My mother's sobs cut him off. Awkwardly, he handed her his card. His duty fulfilled, he placed the hat on his head and left.

Perry? Not Perry! My mind raged. Mom cried, leaning into the table where she sat. Her anguish overwhelmed my own budding grief.

My younger sister, Linda, woke up. Nancy tried to break the news to her gently. Gently? Death is not gentle. My sister crumbled.

Mom called Frank, my oldest brother, and asked him to come to the house. He arrived with his wife, Roxie. Her voice fragmented with sorrow, my mother told him. My brother crumbled.

Frank drove to Joann's, my sister who lives in Rockland. The mere sight of Frank at her door gave warning. Frank was a farmer, not a visitor. She, too, crumbled.

By 10:00, the broken fragments of my family were gathered at my mother's house. Mom sat in her chair by the door, her body cloaked in grief. "Jules, I want you to go to your graduation."

Graduation! I had forgotten. I started to protest, but her next words stopped me.

"Perry would want you to go."

I had no argument. I went, not for Perry, but for her. Roxie and Joann took me.

Graduation. An act of will, of making it through. I cried. Roxie spoke to the principal. "Her brother was killed this morning," she said.

I did not march. Instead, I waited by a side entrance and joined my partner on stage. I walked up and received my diploma. Afterwards, I left through the same side entrance by which I had entered. Graduation.

I left the high school with a close friend. I did not want to go home. My mother was home. Her nerves caused her to start frequently. I laid on a couch at my friend's house and cried. I thought of my mother. After a while, my friend drove me home. I kept her chamois shirt for comfort.

"Funeral services will be Monday at 1:00, at the Brooks Bible Church." Nancy told me. "Graveside services will follow at the South Brooks Cemetery." She hesitated. "Tomorrow, we are going down to the funeral home to see Perry." It was a statement, not a question. She studied me. I cried.

"What about mom?"

"Mom will go earlier with Frank."


I went into the living room and switched on the TV. "In Brooks, a 24-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene this morning. Police officers say that Perry Crosby of Brooks was walking along Rt. 7 when he was apparently struck and killed by a hit and run driver." The newscaster recited this calmly. "Two fishermen found Crosby's body at approximately 3:00 a.m. Unofficial autopsy results show that Crosby died around 1:00 a.m. Police are still investigating." I switched off the TV.

That night, I slept in my friend's chamois. Somehow, it consoled me.

June 11

We entered the funeral home quietly, cautiously. Mr. Rackliffe appeared delicately. He guided us to the room where Perry's body laid. Inside I cried. I remembered a field trip with my psychology class to this same funeral home. I knew what they did to the bodies. I had seen the white enamel table they placed them on to embalm them. I had seen the room filled with different caskets and urns. I had joked with my classmates. Perry laid in one of those caskets.

I noticed his shirt was tucked into his pants. "He doesn't wear his shirt tucked in," I whispered. No one answered.

I reached out my hand and touched him. He was cold. It didn't look like Perry. There was a bruise on his face they had tried to cover with makeup. His nose was crooked. He had broken it twice in his life. It looked as though it had been broken a third time with his death. I wished that I had stayed at home. I stepped back to let my brother and sisters come forward.

We left as quietly and cautiously as we entered, Mr. Rackliffe our silent escort.

At home in my room I fantasized that it had all been a mistake. It was some scheme by the government and Perry was still alive. The officer made a mistake and it was not Perry's body they had found. This was a dream and I would wake up soon. Somehow, it just wasn't true.

I went downstairs. My mother's anguish made it unforgettably real.

June 12

I dressed in my graduation dress for Perry's funeral. It was the only dress I had. Joann showed up at the house in the same dress. Ordinarily, we would have laughed. We used to dress like twins quite often when we were younger. Today, it didn't matter.

The churchyard was full of people. It was difficult to get to the door. Many people spoke to my mother, told her how sorry they were. Inside, we sat together. The pastor spoke. People tried to comfort us with their words, their touch, and their sympathy. We left the church for the cemetery. I had never been part of a funeral procession before.

The cemetery. The place I went with my mother to visit the graves of our ancestors. Not a place for Perry. His casket lay on rods suspended over an open grave. Fresh earth, waiting to cover him, was piled nearby.

We gathered around Perry's grave. I stood apart from my family. Not wanting to believe. Trying hard to make it all untrue. Wanting to waken from this nightmare. The pastor spoke again. Words. People. Someone moved and pressed me closer to my family. The final words were said. The casket was lowered and a handful of dirt was thrown. People slowly moved away and left.

Perry is dead. Buried in a cemetery meant for other people, not people I knew and loved. It was over. All that's left are his memories ­­- and our grief.

Death and memories forever.

Note: June 10, 1998

Twenty years ago today, my brother, Perry Crosby, was killed by a hit and run driver while walking along Rt. 7 in Brooks. Neither the driver nor the vehicle was ever found. Several people saw him just minutes before his estimated time of death. Yet, over two hours passed before anyone stopped. By then it was too late. Perry was dead.

Perry left behind a family who loves him and misses him every day. Not one day goes by that his mother does not grieve for her lost son, that his sisters do not think of him, that his brother does not remember him with longing. What happened to Perry changed the lives of an entire family. Forever.


Copyright Julie M. Watkins, 1998 - All Rights Reserved

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 March 2011 10:38  


The windows are both trimmed out in Amanda's room! They might not be perfect, but certainly good enough for Camp Littlemore. Given the challenge of trimming around both drywall and pine wainscoting on one of the windows, I think we did a fairly decent job.