You may not recognize the name Perry Elliott aka Scott Perry, but, I have no doubt you would recognize his deep, polished, dramatic at times and sometimes whispy voice that has promoted Steve Harvey, NBC’s hit America’s Got Talent, the Oscars, sports broadcasts, big screen movies, and other television shows. It is that distinctive sound that has earned him his nickname, That Voice Guy.
But behind that voice is a beautiful human being who sees and appreciates life, in its darkness and its light. Perry embraces the lessons his journey continues to teach. He stops to smell the flowers and doesn’t take any moments for granted.
His mom, his best friend, died in his arms in 2001 after a short battle with cancer, but not before imparting her wisdom upon her children. Her final days were spent surrounded by friends and family. She and Perry shared some pretty important conversations.
“Periodically during our evening talks ,Mom would comment on what a nice voice I had,” he shared. “After about the 4th time of her telling me this, I asked her what she meant by saying this to me. She got that smile on her face, and explained that when she passed away, if she made it to heaven what a wonderful thing it would be to still hear her only son and perhaps if I were in radio or television, maybe some of the broadcasting waves would reach her, thus she could still hear me. At that point, I promised her I would see what I could and try my best.”
It was about 30 days after burying her that Perry found himself enrolled in the Ohio Center for Broadcasting and graduated nine months later at the top of his class earning the ‘Gary Burbank Award’ for his achievements. His first radio gig was as a news anchor for 700 WLW. I am pretty sure that is where our paths first crossed.
Perry recently shared this reflection from his mom, and it is so moving. I asked him if I could share it.
I distinctly remember waking from the surgery to remove my cancerous right eye and asking Mom: ‘What am I gonna do until my prosthetic eye is made, people are gonna look at me like I’m a freak with an eye patch’…
Mom: ‘Honey, you’re still a handsome man with a huge heart and you always will be, and you’re imperfect, but I’m imperfect, and every single person in this world has imperfections. And when anyone looks at another and sees them as imperfect or less than attractive, that… is a reflection upon them and it shows their true colors and limitations… and not yours.’
The point of the above conversation with my Mom when she was living is:
No matter what has set you back, a stroke, loss of a limb, any type of injury, disease, or abuse you’ve had to suffer. You do NOT have to be perfect to be recognized, nor to be considered beautiful, or loved.
Because being perfectly imperfect is more than good enough for those who love and adore you and me for who and what we are… And those people who love you and me through all of our imperfections, well… quite simply put, they’re keepers.
To Perry, your mom was one very smart and very beautiful woman. I would have loved to have met her. I see so much of her in your perspective of life. That is an incredible legacy. There is absolutely no doubt that your mom is listening to you right now and smiling.
Facebook has so dramatically altered the way we communicate, and sometimes meet.. It has introduced me to people I would never have come in contact with. It is a source of support, of sharing good news and bad, of laughing at each other’s stories, of connecting, really connecting.
It was on that platform where the lives of Cheryl Beardslee and I first intersected. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by his or her Facebook content. It is in the Home Feed where I have come to see Cheryl as an uplifting figure who sees the best in others and sees life through a glass half full. Often, her name is beside feedback to others giving praise, encouragement, or joy.
Now having met her several times at parties, I can say, she is just as warm in person. Cheryl is someone who finds great joy in her life. Conversation with her comes easily as she is both an interested listener and speaker. If you ask her about the people who matter to her, her tone brightens and she opens up to story upon story of their impact.
One of those people is Courttney Cooper, one of Visionaries and Voices top selling artists known for his vividly detailed maps of Cincinnati. The two came to know each other when Cheryl was a special education teacher. Now he is her Godson, and they see each other as often as possible. This picture was taken last month at his birthday party. “He is one of the hardest working students I had,” she said. “From him, I learned about the importance of perseverance, hard work, kindness and making the most of the gifts you are born with,” she told me.
Cheryl also credits her parents, both past army officers, for teaching her about good character.
Talk about not giving up. Her dad, Charles, was 17 when he decided he was going to run away from home to join the army. He donned his only suit, dress shoes and a tie and began his 30-mile journey, trekking through the night to arrive by 3:00 am. He took his shoes off (because they were his good shoes after all), put them behind his head, and laid down on the cement to wait. The recruiter showed up three hours later and wasted no time in signing up this young man who clearly had an undaunting determination that would be of value to the military.
Charles was soon commissioned by the President of the United States to become a Lieutenant Colonel before going after his next question. There was this beautiful woman who was an army nurse…and so of course, Charles suddenly became ill (or so he told people).
They eventually eloped to Jeffersonville, Indiana and were together the rest of their lives imparting their work ethic and values onto their children and others.
Later, they settled in Cincinnati where Cheryl’s dad became the manager of the Regency (apartments) and the entire family lived in a unit and helped. Charles’ staff were like family. “One man told us, ‘the Colonel was like his dad,’” Cheryl said. “That is how people felt about him (her dad). He could inspire people.
“If he asked you to do something, if you would not jump up immediately, then he would say, ‘I wouldn’t pay you a million dollars for your help’ until you would jump up. And then he would say, ‘I only want your help if you will help me with a giving heart.’”
To Lt. Colonel Beardslee, I want to thank you for that legacy. Clearly that giving heart has been passed down to your daughter.
Just along the southern bank of the Ohio River sits the small rural town of Melbourne, Kentucky, spotted with rustic farms and quaint resting spots. The 2010 Census counted 401 people residing in its neighborhoods.
It is also the home of the Freestore Foodbank’s The Giving Fields, an expansive 10 acre community farm that provides fresh produce for Northern Kentucky food pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies. During 2016 growing season alone, some 2,400 volunteers helped plant, weed, harvest, and glean enough vegetables to supplement nearly 120,000 meals.
Dan is among those volunteers. Most days for the past six years he can be seen navigating the rows, fence lines and pretty much the entire length of the farm driving a lawn mower. As a neighbor, it is a job he enjoys doing in his retirement. “It is something simple that I can do to contribute to our community,” he said.
Interested in helping out? The Freestore Foodbank is always looking for new volunteers. For more information about volunteering at The Giving Fields or for questions about donating gardening items or supplies, please email our Volunteer Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (513) 482-7550.
I have often said I am so fortunate that my work has introduced me to some pretty incredible people. Carol Stevie is among them. We came to know each other through my work on the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council’s Voices of Giving Awards. A committee member, Carol had been my main point of contact for numerous years. Always appreciative, upbeat and welcoming, she was one of the reasons I looked forward to that project.
Carol was involved through her work with a Cincinnati nonprofit organization, Catholic Inner-City Schools Education (CISE), which supports the education of about 2000 urban students at eight Catholic elementary schools and several Catholic high schools. The CISE schools welcome all children, regardless of their religious backgrounds and economic circumstances. (Around 75% of the students at CISE are not Catholic, 83% are minorities and 93% are poor.) Carol worked there almost twenty years before her retirement, 8.5 years as its part-time associate director and 11 years as its first full-time director.
CISE was, and probably still is, her passion; although now, in her retirement she is enjoying spending quality time with her family – husband Richard, two adult daughters & spouses – Beth Walker (Tom), Laura Ash (Joe) and our four grandchildren Nathan, Evan, Ava and Eli. Retirement also gives me more time to pursue my love of travel and to plan our upcoming adventures. In the fall, she will be doing more volunteering.
Lisa: Tell me about some of what you are most proud of in life.
Carol: One of things of which I am most proud – in addition to my family – is having had the opportunity to work with CISE and have a positive influence on the lives of so many young people. The growth of community support of the CISE program over the past 20 years has been amazing. It was a privilege to work with the dedicated, hardworking CISE Board and staff, as well as with the principals, staff and faculties of the CISE schools. They are all so mission-driven and inspiring. In addition, I am in awe of the extremely generous donors who have done so much for the students at the CISE schools over the years because they feel committed to giving children the same opportunities that they have receive. Everyone involved with CISE shares the belief that education is the key to overcoming poverty.
Lisa: Where does that drive and passion come from?
Carol: My personal belief in the power of education was shaped by my mother. I grew up in East Price Hill and attended St. Lawrence School, now a CISE school. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college and worked hard to provide for our family. My mother was insistent that my sister and I go to college because she wanted us to have more opportunities than she had. Mom went to work full time to pay for our tuition at Seton High School and to put us both through the University of Cincinnati. I am so grateful to her and have been inspired by her selflessness and by the great value she placed on education.
Lisa: Tell me a little about your philosophy on life.
Carol: I believe the reason that I was drawn to CISE is that we are all connected through our humanity. I love the following quote by Dr. Martin Luther King: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
It was over six years ago when Don and Cindy Reilly’s lives changed forever. Tears swelled in their eyes as the credits rolled to the movie, the Blind Side. And, the next thing they knew, they signed up for CPR and first aid classes and began talking about fostering.
Their first set of five kids were African American, two of them were babies. They stayed with the Reilly’s for about 3 ½ weeks, and were followed by two girls and a boy who were with them about 4 ½ months. The next set of kids were teenage brothers, one with cognitive disabilities, who lived with Don and Cindy for over nine months.
Through these relationships, the Reilly’s learned two things: opening your heart up to young vulnerable kids one of life’s most rewarding experiences. The other lesson – it is VERY difficult to say good bye to temporary foster children who you have grown to love.
“We took a deep breath, wrote a letter and met with a social worker to say we wanted to foster to adopt the next time around,” Don told me.
Their next call was about a ‘unique situation’. There were six children and three of them had already been placed. Cindy actually knew the foster parent. Don and Cindy agreed to take the other three girls.
Ariel (8), Marissa (9), and Katelyn (11) met their new parents to be at Ault Park, the site where Don and Cindy were married years back. Two meet and greets, and a weekend stay later, the girls were asked if they wanted to stay. And, 4 ½ years later, Ariel, Marissa, and Katelyn became Reilly girls.
It was about four months after the adoption was finalized that Cindy became pregnant and Adrianna brought the family to six.
Lisa: What have your daughters brought to your life?
Don: Many think they know how to love but they don’t. I was raised by single mom who had many bad things happen to her and so she never really knew how to love. She would pat you on the back and say I love you. I grew up thinking that was what love was. My daughters have taught me how to love, and that you can love someone unconditionally.
Lisa: What do you hope to impart on your daughters?
Don: Cindy’s and my goal is that we want our girls to be good people, grow up, do what they want to do in life, and be people who have their hands out for those who need help. That is how I lead my life. One of the reasons I have started my own business what so that it could be a place where people can come to work and have a boss who cares about them, encourages them, and brings jo to their life. I want my girls to live that way.
The first 20 years of my life were all about me but I look at that as a good thing, and that is how I overcame a lot of my insecurities. Until I met my wife, I always was a worker. I began working when 14 years old. I think I kept busy so I didn’t have to deal with my life. I thought I was different because I didn’t have dad. I always thought it’d be neat to have a dad. Then I met my mentor who talked to me about just looking forward. He drove me to stay focused not on my past but what I want from my life. I try to teach my kids that they too can keep going forward and not look back. You can get caught up too much looking at the past and it can hurt you.