Alexander Charles Perry

February 11, 1971 — December 2, 2015

By Colleen Cronin

Alex and his daughter, Paige.
Alex and his daughter, Paige. Photo courtesy of Rhoda Perry.

Poker, bridge, Scrabble, soccer, lacrosse — Alexander Charles Perry loved all types of games. Whether they challenged him mentally or physically, it didn’t matter.

Games were a big part of his family vacations growing up, when he’d spend time at his family’s house in Sunapee, New Hampshire. When he wasn’t playing a board game, Alex could be found sitting for hours, patiently putting together a puzzle or reading by oil lamp or candle (the home didn’t have electricity for much of his childhood).

But Alex also loved the outdoors. Not risk averse, Alex would always be the first to jump off the diving board at Lake Sunapee.

“He went bang,” up from the diving board, then down into the water, his mother Rhoda Perry, a former Providence state senator, remembers. “He’d come up from the water with a big smile on his face.”

The smile was what you noticed most about Alex when he walked in the room, when he played soccer or threw a party, she said.

Italian food, spicy food (especially the spicy Cambodian pork at 4 Seasons Restaurant in Providence) and his father’s cooking all made Alex smile, as did a good deal at a thrift store or a yard sale.

But there was one thing he didn’t like: being told he couldn’t do something.

When he was little and learning how to ice skate, he couldn’t stand up straight. His legs would buckle and his ankles rolled. But Alex was determined to play hockey, and when he went to the rink to play, “feet all over the place,“ his mother said, “he’d go after that puck.”

He was often in motion — playing a game or running around — and never considered himself academically-minded like his father or brother. His older brother, Sam, is a East Asian Studies professor at Brown; his father was a Rhode Island College sociology professor.

Alex was smart, though. “Charlie” (the special nickname his mother called him) was very good at Spanish, and math was always his strong suit. When he played games, he knew how likely you were to be dealt a particular card or roll a certain number.

But Alex had different struggles than most students. He spent his 16th birthday in an in-patient program for high schoolers with alcohol and drug addiction, according to his mother.

Though the family lived in Providence, Alex ended up attending high school at the Hyde School, in Maine, which offered specialized help for students with past emotional or behavioral struggles. He did well there, Perry said, and from there, attended Guilford College in North Carolina.

But he had to leave Guilford after an accident in a dorm room. A friend there was playing with a lacrosse stick and hit Alex in the eye with a ball, leading to a serious injury. He returned home after the accident.

Eventually, Alex returned to school and graduated with a degree in psychology from Rhode Island College in 1995. That he was able to get a degree while battling addiction was a “miracle in and of itself,” his mother said.

He married and had his first child, Lucas. And later, after he was divorced, he had a second child, Paige, from another relationship. Both of them made him smile. When he was with the two of them, he was his happiest, Perry said.

He also loved poker, which he played competitively. It was a passion for Alex, who had tattoos of a diamond and a spade on his arms.

To support himself, he was a self-employed house painter, and often hired other people with addictions, while he tried his best to overcome his own.

Often, he went years without using drugs. His longest period of sobriety lasted more than four years. But his mother said opioids held a firm grip on her son. She’s lost count of all the times that she and Alex would call facilities asking if they had beds open so he could go into treatment.

When he was 44 years old, after he had overdosed numerous times, Alex Perry’s battle with addiction came to an end. On Dec. 2, 2015, he died at his home in North Providence of a fentanyl overdose.