• Joe Perrott
  • 84 years old
  • Lived in Mount Airy
  • The number of lives he touched is incalculable

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His son Keith and Keith’s buddies would joke that you could walk into a saloon in Barcelona and within minutes find somebody who knew Keith’s dad, Joe Perrott.

It sounds a bit hyperbolic until you peel the onion on this remarkable life and find that might not be an exaggeration after all.

Mr. Perrott was a popular teacher at William Penn Charter School for more than four decades. He wrote a murder mystery novel for which his daughter designed the cover. He won five state titles as a lacrosse coach and is honored as a character on an ABC sitcom by one of his former students.

Former Phillies player and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. called Mr. Perrott “the best teacher and adviser a young man could ever have.”

Mr. Perrott died on Friday, April 24, from complications of COVID-19.

Fifty years ago, Mr. Perrott (pronounced per-OTT) cofounded a college preparation program at Penn Charter to help students at other schools with limited resources take the next educational step. He spent three years in the Air Force stationed in San Antonio, Texas; relaxed on Long Beach Island; and camped in the Pine Barrens, which his son called his muse.

“He was a maverick. He did everything. He was a Renaissance man,” Keith Perrott said. “He even painted. I can’t tell you how many people have told me their lives were changed in a positive way. We’re talking thousands. Like Adam Goldberg. He talks about [my dad] all the time. It’s pretty impressive.”

Goldberg, the TV and film producer and creator, was an English student of Mr. Perrott’s at Penn Charter. In his senior year, Goldberg was an aspiring playwright.

“What stands out about him,” Mr. Perrott said in 1994 of the then-18-year-old Goldberg, “is that he is remarkably receptive to critical commentary. He is willing to do revisions and rewrites. He listens to his audience and can rewrite accordingly. That’s what makes him so good.”

Goldberg rewarded his former teacher by naming a character after him in his TV show The Goldbergs.

“Joe Perrott was more than a teacher,” Goldberg tweeted. “He was your therapist.”

The actor Anthony Michael Hall plays the character in The Goldbergs named after Mr. Perrott.

Upon hearing of Mr. Perrott’s death, Goldberg’s mother, Beverly, responded: “I am devastated. He was a lovely man and great teacher. I still remember the beautiful college recommendation he wrote for you in that distinctive handwriting of his.”

“It takes you aback,” Keith Perrott said. “Something like his passing, to have everybody come forward, it makes us realize the impact of his legacy.”

Mr. Perrott attended Lower Merion High School and Williams College, where he played football and was the team captain and MVP of the lacrosse team his senior year. He returned to Philadelphia and in 1969 became the lacrosse coach at Penn Charter.

Mr. Perrott built the Quakers into a powerhouse, winning Pennsylvania state titles in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1983 and, as a key assistant to Chris Teare, in 1989. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania lacrosse hall of fame in 1999, and a multi-purpose field at the school is named in his honor.

But it was in the classroom where his impact was greatest. Keith said he is hearing from countless people who used Penn Charter’s college prep program as a stepping stone.

“Joe’s successor in the college prep program [Bruce MacCullough] reminded me that around 1969-70, Joe went to Simon Gratz High School principal Marcus Foster to ask what PC could do for his students,” said John Burkhart, the unofficial historian for Penn Charter, “and thus the program was born.”

One of the original instructors was math teacher Bill Ellerbee, years before he started his hall of fame run as the boys’ basketball coach at Gratz.


“It was invaluable to a great number of kids,” Ellerbee said of the program Mr. Perrott created. “It gave the kids a look at the other side of the fence. We lost a good guy with Joe Perrott."

In addition to his son, Mr. Perrott is survived by daughter Lisa; son Frank; former wives Karen Hires, Lenore Donahue, and Carol Hallenbeck; and four grandchildren.

— Ed Barkowitz, ebarkowitz@inquirer.com