Longtime Harmar police officer Burton Perrett dies
Evie Perrett met her husband when she was 16, married him when she was 17, gave birth to their son when she was 18 and was his wife for 55 years.
But if she had known Burton Perrett wanted to be a police officer before she married him, she might not have done it, Mrs. Perrett said Monday.
Cops, she said, worked long hours for little money back then.
“That was his whole goal in life — to be a cop in Harmar Township,” she said. “I thought it was a foolish goal. That was his life. That's what he wanted to be.”
Burton A. “Burt” Perrett, of Harmar, who served 34 years as a police officer in Harmar, died Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 at home from congestive heart failure. He was 85.
Born in Pittsburgh, Mr. Perrett was a lifelong Valley resident. Starting as a part-time police officer in Harmar, he rose to police chief, retiring at the end of 1997.
He also served as constable for 40 years, which Mrs. Perrett said he first did to help his law-enforcement career.
From Cheswick, Mrs. Perrett said she met her future husband at a restaurant where she worked as a waitress in the summer.
“He was very devoted,” she said. “That's all he ever wanted to be his whole life, to be a cop in Harmar Township and take care of all the bad guys and make it a safe community to live in.”
Current Harmar Police Chief Jason Domaratz attested to that quality in Mr. Perrett, too. Domaratz did not serve on the police force under Perrett. But, he knew both him and his son, Reilly, who also was a township police officer, from working in the Perretts' landscaping business in the early 1990s.
“I know he was 100 percent devoted to Harmar Township,” Domaratz said. “I used to go hunting with those guys at their camp, and we would want to stay longer. But Burt would be there for a day and he would want to get back. He didn't want to leave his township unattended.
“You can't down his name,” he said. “He's a legend in Harmar Township. He was a very good guy.”
Oakmont Mayor Bob Fescemyer, a retired Oakmont police officer, first came to know Mr. Perrett as a fellow officer. They became friends.
“He was just a great guy,” Fescemyer said. “He was a benevolent guy. He would give you the shirt off his back. If you were in trouble, he would hand it to you. There was nothing that guy wouldn't do.
“If you deserved a break, you better hope you ran into him. He's the guy who would give it to you.”
In 1964, there was the night Mr. Perrett didn't come home.
According to Mrs. Perrett, a thief who her husband had caught a couple times before threatened to kill him should they meet again.
When they did, the man unloaded his weapon on Mr. Perrett.
Although the assailant hit him five or six times, including in a boot and his hat, only one bullet pierced his body, in a leg.
“We went over on that call,” Fescemyer said. “He was down whenever we got over there. Thank God, he lived through that.”
Mr. Perrett told others not to call his wife.
“I really didn't find out what was going on until he was in the hospital,” she said. “He wouldn't give up. He had no fear. He had no fear of anyone.”
Mrs. Perrett said she had fear, despite the gold shamrock her husband wore around his neck. He never took it off, believing that it gave him the “luck of the Irish.”
“I knew he could take care of himself,” she said. “I knew he was very capable. He had that shamrock around his neck so I knew he was safe.”
It wasn't the first time Mr. Perrett had been injured in duty. A veteran of the Marines serving during the Korean War, Mr. Perrett stepped on a grenade and was wounded by shrapnel in his legs. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
Reilly Perrett not only followed in his father's footsteps as a police officer, but also as the township police chief.
“I always told everybody I was married to a chief, and I gave birth to a chief,” Mrs. Perrett said.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Perrett is survived by two grandchildren.
Services and burial are private at the family's request.
“I did not want any kind of celebration,” Mrs. Perrett said. “He didn't want it, either.”
But since he died, Mrs. Perrett said many have called and stopped by their home.
“He knew everybody in this town. He knew the good guys and the bad guys. He knew everyone,” she said. “He helped a lot of people.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.