Sept 29, 2003, By Rob Dinerman Â© 2002
Squashtalk is sad to report the death
on September 17th of Gene Perle, who succumbed to a heart attack that
morning at his West Bloomfield home in suburban Michigan soon after coming
downstairs for breakfast with his wife Silvia.
Though Perle had been battling cancer,
he had no warning pains of any kind, and in fact he had played a strenuous
squash game just the day before. Sylvia had gone down the driveway to
gather the morning newspaper and when she returned her husband was on
the floor gasping for air. She
immediately administered CPR and had him rushed to a local hospital, but
he never revived and was pronounced dead later that morning.
His legacy as the winner of more national
and world age-group championships in hardball, softball and doubles than
any player in Michigan history is all the more remarkable for the fact
that he didn’t even take up squash competitively until the early 1980’s,
by which time he was 45 years old.
Though Perle’s racquet skills were solid and he was tactically very sound,
the success he encountered owed much to both an intense competitive attitude
(a marked contrast to his off-court affability) and especially the physical
advantages he enjoyed in speed, strength and fitness over virtually all
of his contemporaries, who became unable to keep up with him as their
matches wore on.
These traits were most apparent on
the doubles court, on whose larger dimensions Perle was able from his
left-wall post to track down balls that would have gone for winners against
anyone else of his vintage, and in which he and Philadelphian Fred Bracher
became the only team to win their world doubles age-group championships
in each of the last four holdings of this biennial tournament. And beginning
in 1991, when he and John Fuller won the first of their four consecutive
55-and-over USSRA titles, Perle began streak of consecutive years of winning
at least one USSRA and/or world age-group doubles title that extended
throughout the remainder of his life.
26 NATIONAL AND WORLD TITLES
All together, Perle won (or, in the case of doubles, co-won with either
Fuller, Bracher or Jim Evel) 11 U. S. doubles, four U. S. singles (three
in hardball and one in softball), four world doubles, five Canadian doubles
and two Canadian singles crowns in the 55’s, 60’s and 65’s categories
13-year span, a 26-title total that almost certainly would have been even
bigger had he not discontinued hardball after winning his third straight
title in this discipline in ’96. In ’94, he became only the third player
to win age-group events in both the American and Canadian singles and
doubles in the same year.
His penchant for successful performances
in international play is further buttressed by the medals he won as a
member of the U. S. team in the quadrennial Maccabiah Games in Israel
in ’85, ’89 and ’93 and by the four times he represented the U. S. in
the annual Lapham-Grant event between the U. S. and Canada.
A native of Jersey City, N.J., Perle
earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, masters from Syracuse
University and a doctorate from Chicago. He taught at Indiana University,
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsbrugh and the University of Pittsburgh
before he and Sylvia moved to the Detroit area in ’68 when he was offered
the position of senior staff scientist at the Ford Motor Co’s transportation
research and planning office. The following year, Perle became an associate
professor of geography and urban planning at Wayne State University, in
which capacity he served for 32 years until his retirement in 2001.
He is survived by his wife, two daughters,
Lisa and Kathryn, a son, Lawrence, and two grandchildren.
Newly appointed USSRA CEO Palmer Page,
who spent several years in Michigan during his career with IBM, became
good friends with Perle during that time and remembers him fondly. "He
was one of the most energetic and enthusiastic people I have ever met,"
Page remarked upon hearing of Perle’s passing.
"Both on and off the court, he
was a tremendously positive influence who will be greatly missed."
Page’s sentiments have been echoed by a major outpouring of condolences
and remembrances from Perle’s many friends throughout the squash community
during the past week since the news broke of his sudden passing.
Memorial donations may be made to
Friends Of Dartmouth Squash, attn: June Marshall,
Dartmouth College, 6083 Alumni Gym, Hanover, NH 03755.