Emotions ran high at Perry Reese Celebration

Emotions ran high at Perry Reese Celebration

Image Credit: Melissa Herrera

“In the end he let down his guard to be part of your family,” said Perry Reese’s sister, Audrey Hardy, as she sat under the shade of the tent. “This documentary is a good thing, and you keep him alive because you loved him. But if I’m going to be honest, this area was Perry’s home, yes. But also, over here where I lived was home too. I just miss my brother.”

Emotions ran high as the Perry Reese Celebration took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Berlin. Fifty people gathered at the Yoder residence to catch the trailer, partake of good food and laugh among old friends.

The group gathered in the darkened garage to view an 11-minute trailer of the Perry Reese documentary. The garage became a makeshift theater, and tables laden with memories were spread out for viewing, as well as newspaper clippings emblazoned with Hawks victories and losses and the carefully curated scrapbooks the cheerleaders would create each year to present to the players and Reese. People lingered over the remnants of the past.

Zosimo Maximo and his production crew, who have put together the nearly finished documentary, readied for the premiere. Allan Miller, Shelly Miller and Mark Lonsinger each spoke about what this documentary will mean to the community.

Maximo talked to the crowd, running through his process and everything they had done to make sure this documentary was done the right way.

“This documentary isn’t mine; it’s ours,” he said.

The lights went down and as the trailer began. The crowd grew still as every face was rapt in the story on screen, the depth of the trailer letting the crowd know the hard parts of the story, along with the successes and joys, would be told. As the trailer ended and the applause began, a collective breath was let out. It had been well-received.

A table filled with Junior Schlabach’s barbecue chicken and roasters full of noodles and desserts were spread out for guests to eat. The tent filled with friendly faces, and people caught up or were introduced to each other.

Memories tugged at the edges of the day.

“What Shelly said was true,” said Nancy Mishler, mother to Kevin and Nevin Mishler, who played for Perry. “We all knew a little piece of him. I knew him from a mom perspective. He always called me Mom. I never got a Nancy.”

“It does make you think what kind of legacy do you want to leave with your life,” said Kari Mishler, Nevin’s wife, who was emotional after viewing the trailer.

Maximo and crew, who had been on their toes all day, relaxed a bit as they piled their plates with food and sat with guests to chat.

“I feel good,” Maximo said. “This was a big shoot, and we still have some interviews to do. Mark Lonsinger might do some narration, and I think his voice will bring it all together for us. That’ll be the tie. Now it’s just taking a hundred hours of footage and cutting it down to two hours.”

Paul and Alan Doerfler both played for Reese at Guernsey Catholic High School before it closed in 1982.

“We used to spend the night at Perry’s house, and he would wake us up to loud music, usually Prince,” Alan Doerfler said. “It would be 6 a.m., and he would be dancing around. He would have eggs, bacon and orange juice ready for us. He always had orange juice.”

“I remember one Hiland basketball camp for ages 12-16, and I was 11. On my application I was 5-foot-3 and 90 pounds, and I was thinking that I was going to get killed,” Paul Doerfler said. “What was I thinking? I endured the week, but it was hard. I didn’t have the heart to tell Perry that I was too young to be there because he would have just told me, ‘You’re here to get better, right?’”

“As good a guy as Perry was, he wasn’t as good as he thought. He thought he was the best euchre player in Holmes County,” said Greg Curry, former principal at Hiland. “And I still have the dollar at home from 25 years ago that proved he wasn’t. He didn’t like to lose.”

The little things are what mattered most among the collection of memories that were being shared. Some people not in attendance said they had intense memories of Reese that had nothing to do with basketball. He was a teacher that had seen many students come through his classroom. Their thoughts were felt too, even as the memories turned to the end of his life.

“I cried like a baby when I found out he had passed,” a former student said.

“He never wanted to be a burden,” said Peg Brand, recalling the months leading up to Reese’s death.

“I was washing dishes and got this panicky feeling that I needed to go see Perry,” Miller said. “I left my sink full of dishes and went. I met someone coming out the driveway who told me he wasn’t responding to anyone anymore. I walked into his room and said, ‘Hey P,’ and he reached out his hand, and I told him about my day. I told him I loved him, and the next morning he was gone.”

“He died on his own terms,” Hardy said. “In 2008 I lost my brother Christopher, and in 2000 I lost my brother Perry. I do have moments when I miss my family, but in 2016 I knew that it had to stop, the grieving. This was different because it was a whole community. It’s supposed to get easier, but it doesn’t.

“Then you watch an 11-minute trailer, and it all comes back. Some tears are good. This is all a good thing.”

Maximo hopes to screen the documentary on Reese’s life at the Cleveland Film Festival next spring.