The Perry Middle School students in the Power Up program have been giving a lot of thought this term to goodness, greatness and the roots of reputation in Perry by making a field trip Friday for a close study of the 25 figures on the Wall of Witnesses in Soumas Court.
Carla Wood teaches the Power Up enrichment classes for students proficient in math and reading. Each quarter features a different topic, often on a thee in social studies, and the sixth, seventh and eighth graders vote for their top topics, and the middle school school guidance counselors try to get them into the classes.
“My students will be having many, many guest speakers with ties to Perry,” Wood said, “and they will be profiling their own Wall of Witnesses nominee for a project to be displayed at Perry Middle School in late December.”
Wood said this quarter’s speaker series began Oct. 29 with Connie McGuire, president of the Perry Historical Preservation Commission, and Bill Clark, director of the Fullhart-Carnegie Trust. Other scheduled speakers include such notable contemporary witnesses as Sven Peterson, Hawn Wong, Eddie Diaz, Larry Vodenik, Lori Seeley, Clark Wicks, Anjelica Diaz-Cardenas, Ashley David, John Palmer and Tom Lipovac.
Clark shared with the middle school students his knowledge of the Wall of Witnesses, including the fact that its name derives from a verse in the Bible that Clark and Perry native and philanthropist Roberta Green Ahmanson were inspired by after they saw a similar wall in Murphys, Calif., called the Wall of Comparative Ovations.
To commemorate the name, Clark and Perry Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson Connie McGuire unveiled in August a new plaque on the Wall of Witnesses that quotes the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews: “. . . so great a cloud of witnesses.” The new plaque further states, “The people of Perry honor and bear witness to those among us who have made a difference. They inspire us.”
The Greek word martyr is translated into English as witness, and the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews was probably referring to the large number of martyrs who were sacrificed for their faith. The English root of the word witness is wit, which also appears in words like witty, witless and unwitting. The same root gives us the word video, and the core idea involves seeing, understanding, knowing.
Ascending the wall like a great cloud during the Green Ahmanson period from 1997 to 2007 were 20 honorees: Flora Bailey, Cornelia Bulkley, Celeste Council, Earl Green, Virginia Green, V. T. “Snick” Hamlin, Betty Mae Harris, Eugene Hastie, Agnes Heightshoe, C. Durant Jones, Chaplain Horace Lewis, William McLuen, Fred Melick, Nora O’Malley, W. H. Osmundson, Hazel Purviance, Willie Tudor, John Turner, Roy “Snake” Whyte and Ned Willis.
Since resuming additions to the Soumas Court’s pantheon of Perry historical notables in 2015, the partnership has honored five local figures: Mike Kanealy in 2016, Charles Joy in 2016, Jim Walstrom in 2017, Dallas “Pete” VanKirk in 2018 and Jim Haas in 2019.