BRIGHAM CITY — Utah Highway Patrol Lieutenant Lee Perry is retiring after serving on northern Utah’s roads for over three decades.
As many gathered to celebrate the coming of a new year, lots of people gathered in Brigham City to say thank you to Perry for the past 31 years.
“Congratulations,” said UHP Colonel Michael Rapich as he gave a framed plaque and certificate to Perry during a goodbye party Tuesday afternoon.
“Thank you,” said Perry as people started clapping.
Perry was the lieutenant over UHP Section 1, which includes Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties.
“He will be missed. He has been a valuable part of this community and someone I knew I could always rely on for help,” said Brigham City Police Chief Michael Nelson.
He has made a lot of friends through the years and many of them came to wish him well.
“Honestly, I told my wife, I said I hope we get somebody that shows up if we’re going to have this open house,” said Perry with a laugh.
It was standing room only as friends, family, colleagues and former colleagues took turns saying funny stories.
“This community will greatly miss you,” said one woman.
“Thank you for everything you have done,” said a man while holding Perry’s shoulder.
“I didn’t think you would amount to much,” said Perry’s father-in-law as everyone in the crowd started laughing.
Ever Perry’s mother stood up to give her son a hug.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said.
Many people said Perry meant a lot to them.
“Lee is such a great friend,” said Kristie Beesley.
Beesley’s husband, UHP trooper Aaron Beesley, was killed in the line of duty in 2012.
Perry was Beesley’s lieutenant and to this day, he often calls Kristie to make sure she and her kids are okay.
“He just took care of us and it still feels like, even after as long as it has been, he’s still taking care of us,” she said. “He’s still checking on us, keeping track of how my boys are doing, and he does it often enough that we feel like, wow, we’re not forgotten.”
The family of UHP trooper Eric Ellsworth said the same thing.
Ellsworth was killed in 2016 and Perry often calls the Ellsworth family to see how they’re doing.
“I wanted to make sure that no man ever got left behind and no man ever got forgotten,” Perry said. “God forbid something would’ve happened to me in these 31 years, I wanted to know that my wife and kids would be taken care of.”
Dislike of law enforcement
That’s a lot of compassion for a guy who didn’t like law enforcement after his brother was killed in an armed robbery at a Brigham City gas station in 1984.
“When he was murdered, that summer, I was probably angry with law enforcement to some level because I didn’t feel like they had solved the crime and someone law enforcement had failed my family,” Perry said.
That all changed when Perry went for a ride along with Box Elder County Sheriff Leon Jensen.
Perry fell in love with how fast police cars could go.
“We got in his patrol car, a Mustang, and we started shifting,” Perry said. “I’m thinking, 22 years old, and I’m going, you get paid to do this? I was sold.”
I knew if I ever needed anything, Lee would be there to help.
–Box Elder County Sheriff Kevin Potter
Now, three decades later, he’s leaving a job he loves.
“I knew if I ever needed anything, Lee would be there to help,” said Box Elder County Sheriff Kevin Potter.
Perry will continue to work as a state representative for the Brigham City area.
However, he’s looking forward to relaxing more often with his wife, Kathy, his children and his granddaughter.
There no doubt, though, he’ll keep in touch.
“Well, you know when they say protect and serve? That’s engraved in my heart is to protect and serve people,” Perry said.