CWPA Remembers Fenwick Water Polo Coach Dave Perry
CHICAGO, Ill. -- Fenwick High School (Ill.) water polo coach Dave Perry, who brought the Oak Park school's program to statewide prominence, died Sunday, September 11, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Perry, who began coaching swimming and water polo at Fenwick in 1987, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
"Dave was a remarkable coach and a better person," said Mike Curtin, currently Fenwick's associate athletic director. "It's the end of a coaching era; it truly is. He was one of the key guys to work with the IHSA to get them to sanction water polo. Everyone knew him. He was one of a kind."
Curtin, Fenwick's former athletic director of 21 years, said students came to Fenwick to play water polo because of Perry's reputation, and called him "the guy in Illinois water polo."
Under Perry, the Fenwick boys water polo team won a total of 17 state titles, including eight-straight IHSA sanctioned state tournaments. The team won 51 straight games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The Friars also won 35 games in both 2004 and 2006. They went 36-0 and took home their eighth-straight state title last season with Dave's son, Kyle Perry, as interim head coach. Perry helped coach the team from a wheelchair during last year's 16-9 win over St. Ignatius in the title game at Stevenson High School.
He finished his career with a win-loss record of 711-70-1 in 24 seasons at Fenwick. In May, the team won its eighth consecutive state title and ninth in the 10-year history of the IHSA-sanctioned tournament.
"I can only say there is another angel in heaven," said Fenwick football coach Joe DiCanio of his colleague. "He was a terrific guy, and he put up a valiant fight. We can all learn about courage and discipline from him. He was a terrific leader and it's quite a loss for Fenwick."
With his success at the high school level and his popular Windy City Water Polo Club, Perry seemed to draw skilled athletes to his program.
"He was so successful and so many quality players just came to play for him," said Curtin. "It wasn't really fair, we got used to them winning every year.
"One thing about coaches: it's one thing to have talent, it's a whole other thing to know what to do with that talent. Perry was a master of how to use the talent he had."
Current Fenwick boys swim coach Luke McGuire said Perry was known for his patience.
"At Mass this morning one response to Dave's passing was 'slow to anger and rich in compassion,' and that really sums him up, as well as his coaching methods," said McGuire, who swam and coached under Perry. "He was a very mellow guy and a listener, which made him a great leader."
Jack Wagner, the Fenwick girls water polo coach who worked with Perry for 17 years, said his best friend was more than just a coach. "I have never met a man who was so calm and cool in pressure situations. He was a diplomat, a statesman, so much more than just a coach."
"I know it sounds trite and you hear it all the time, but he left an impact on, literally, thousands of kids," Curtin said. "That's quite a legacy."
Mr. Perry is survived by his wife, Marianne, a son, Kyle, and a daughter, Liz.
Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Fenwick High School's Lawless Gym, 505 W. Washington Blvd., Oak Park. The funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, 1530 Jackson Ave., River Forest.