Obituary: Perry Nunn, 1962-2019 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Perry Nunn, 1962-2019

For years the Burlington musician played Friday nights at Ruben James

Published September 13, 2019 at 7:00 a.m.
Updated October 23, 2019 at 4:41 p.m.

Perry Nunn
  • Perry Nunn

Perry Nunn, a beloved husband, brother, cousin, uncle, teacher, friend and musician, died surrounded by love at home on August 29, 2019, of pulmonary fibrosis. The disease became very aggressive in Perry's final months, progressing faster and faster up to his death. No one expected him to decline so quickly.

Perry had made his home in Burlington for nearly 30 years. He was well known in many circles and had established a large, close community of friends. For six years in the late 1990s into the early 2000s, he had a regular happy-hour gig every Friday at Ruben James, where his soaring voice and killer rhythm on guitar and harmonica made him a favorite with students from the University of Vermont. He was hired to play many a college party, and a returning alum once told Perry: "You were the soundtrack to my college career!" About 10 years later, Perry again had a regular gig for nearly two years, playing Fridays or Saturdays at Red Square. He produced an eponymous album in 1990 and a second one, Between Two Points, in 2012.

Perry was born in Utica, N.Y., on March 6, 1962, but grew up in Plattsburgh. He came from a large family in a neighborhood on Cumberland Head with many more kids on all sides. His earliest musical collaborations were with his next-door cousin and partner in crime, Matt Mousseau. As elementary-aged children, the two of them used the garage as their sound studio, where they wrote songs and performed together on improvised instruments from the garage and kitchen, dreaming of forming a band one day. As teenagers, they did exactly that, and well into their twenties their bands continued to play around New York and Vermont.

Perry earned his bachelor's degree in music from SUNY Plattsburgh. His cousin and best friend, Michael Mousseau, inspired him to study a semester abroad in London, which only piqued his interest in traveling even further. Fascinated with everything about life and the world we live in, Perry later spent two years traveling with his first wife around the world together with Michael Mousseau and his wife. Perry's large spirit and enthusiastic interest in the people and places he encountered — paired with his impressive chops when busking throughout Europe and in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia — won him friends and fans wherever he went.

After earning his master's degree in education at Saint Michael's College, in 1997 Perry began teaching sixth graders at Colchester Middle School. There he had the chance to share his own wonder and amazement at the elegance and complexity of life and our planet and universe as he taught science and social studies. Written in large letters at the front of his classroom throughout every school year were the words, "Everything's connected." He trained some of his classes to sing a sustained note all together with one voice, “Ahhhhhhhhh!,” anytime he mentioned the word “photosynthesis” — the concept is that important. Perry was deeply honored to learn from former students here and there that they had later chosen careers in the sciences because of his influence on their thinking when they were 11 years old.

Perry is survived by his wife, Beverly, and by his siblings and many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews: brothers James (Susan) of Reno, N.V., Thomas (Tina) of North Reading, Mass., Paul (Ellen) of Morrisonville, N.Y., and Ted of Honolulu, Hawaii; sister Mary of Honolulu, Hawaii; and a niece who was like a sister, Jessica (Ben) of Sebastopol, Calif. Perry is loved by the countless friends he made over his lifetime with his gentle manner, his ready wit, his luminous smile and his loving nature.

A memorial service will be held to celebrate Perry’s life on October 5, 2019, at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House at the top of Church Street in downtown Burlington. All are welcome.

Perry requested that any donations be made to the UVM Foundation Pulmonary Fibrosis Program:

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