Friday, January 27, 2012

Hometown Hero Rescues Canines in Peril

Left to right: Leslie Gross, Jerry Perelman, Greg Perelman, Jerry’s son, and Juliette Madden.

A retired music teacher in the New York City public school system, Roslyn Heights resident Jerry Perelman has found plenty to keep him busy. Namely, he describes his volunteer work as “saving one soul at a time,” the souls of canines, that is. Jerry is a licensed pilot who does work for Animal Rescue Flights. When a certain canine is being abandoned by its owner, when it is scheduled to be put to sleep, the organization will alert pilots like Jerry to make a flight, pick up the animal and fly it to a counselor who then places it with a new family.

For such work, Jerry has been named by the Town of North Hempstead as a Hometown Hero.

The ceremony took place last Thursday in Manhasset with Village Clerk Leslie Gross providing the honors.

“If this inspires just one person to get involved to help rescue dogs, then we’re really doing our job by reaching out to the community,” Ms. Gross said, hailing Perelman’s volunteer work.

Jerry especially remembered his first mission with Animal Rescue Flights. He flew from Republic Airport in Farmingdale to a destination in North Philadelphia. The dog was named Aggie, described by Jerry “as a very sweet, 7-year-old partially paralyzed long-haired red dachshund.” Aggie moved with the use of a brace cart. “When I picked up Aggie from the relay in North Philadelphia, she was shy and whimpering,” Jerry recalled. “I placed her brace near her cage in the luggage compartment, petted her a little and spoke to her. She settled down, knowing that I believed the brace was the key to her mobility.”

The success of that rescue operation got Jerry hooked on rescuing canines in peril. For the past three-and-a-half years, he has performed seven such missions knowing that each time he does so, he is giving a canine a new home and possibly saving it from extinction as well.

Jerry got involved with Animal Rescue Flights after reading about people who do that same work. A licensed pilot since 1970, Jerry knew this was a service that he too could perform and he is only glad to continue working with the rescue movement.

“It’s a rush you only get a few times in your life,” Jerry told The Roslyn News at the town hall ceremony.

Love of Animals Since Childhood

A native of Brooklyn who previously lived in Port Washington before moving to Roslyn in 1985, Jerry has always had a love for animals, not to mention one for both flying and music.

Growing up in an apartment building in Brooklyn, Jerry briefly had a dog for a pet before being forced to give it away on instructions from his parents. Time has not permitted him yet to care for a pet, but until it does, he remains glad to assist in the rescue mission. While attending college, Jerry’s love of flying became serious as he managed to travel out to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey one day a week to take flying lessons.

As a music teacher, Jerry searched for ways to inspire the love of music in his young students. He noticed that students quickly got bored with classical music and so he thought of instruments that might get their attention. He settled on the harmonica and soon found that when students could learn to play even the simplest of tunes such as “Happy Birthday” on that instrument, then they would soon begin to appreciate such classics as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Moreover, a publishing house in California began to take notice of Jerry’s habit of ordering so many harmonicas. That company soon asked Jerry to write a textbook on harmonica playing. He obliged and today, The Perfect Harmonica Method is now in its fourth printing and is being taught in classrooms all over the country.

Jerry also plays keyboard and percussion instruments and over the years, has performed at more than 3,000 functions, currently with the music company, NY Rhythm Entertainment. Like many a New York youngster, he got his start playing at hotels in the Catskills Mountain. There, he witnessed, up close, such legends as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and O.C. Smith in action. It was Smith, known for his hit song, God Didn’t Make Little Green Apples one that won an Emmy for Song of the Year in 1969. It was Smith who mentored Perelman, advising him not to drink, how to dress and in general, how to present himself as an entertainer and musician. “He was a great human being,” Jerry recalled.

For now, it is his work with Animal Rescue Flights that occupies much of Jerry’s time. And the service that work provides makes him more than eligible to be the latest Hometown Hero from Roslyn.

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