1912 - 2001
"That I can't relate to today's music or morals
doesn't make either necessarily bad. Just different. I leave the judgments to
Big thanks to Kevin Hassell for the
vast majority of this story, Cayley for all your hard work getting the
photographs, and Gray Reeves for the additional grave picture. Thanks to you
Perry Como was born Pierino Ronald Como in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, on May
18, 1912. He started out as a barber when he was a teenager, and then became one
of the most popular singers of the twentieth century, with a career that spanned
six decades. He sold more than 100 million albums, and had fourteen number one
singles as well. In addition, he also had a successful television show, and for
many years hosted an annual Christmas special. There is plenty of info on him
and his career here, at the IMDB.
Songs like Catch a Falling Star and It's Impossible insured his immortality.
On August 12, 1998, his wife of 65 years, Roselle, died two weeks after
celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. After this, Perry's health
declined greatly. They lived in Palm Beach, Florida, in Jupiter Inlet Beach
Colony. Perry and his family (he and Roselle had three children) had originally
lived in Long Island, but had moved to Florida in the Sixties. They lived in this
house on Lighthouse Drive. Wanna
see their mailbox?
From one account, a year after his wife's death, Perry really bounced back
and was even singing again. He had a steady stream of visitors and fans come to
visit him, which he welcomed with open arms.
In October of 2000, Perry checked into the Jupiter Medical Center,
complaining of shortness of breath. He was hospitalized for 4 days, but then
released. He was however losing weight, but otherwise released in good health.
From what I have read, much of his final years were spent at home, usually in
bed. He was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. As a result, he was forced to
give up playing golf, which he loved. Friends said that after having to give
that up, it was just a matter of time.
On Friday, May 11th, according to his daughter Terri Thibadeau, she
and her son and Perry shared ice cream, and he was in pretty good
spirits. On Saturday, May 12, 2001, he died at home, in his sleep. According to
Terri, he was sitting in a chair when he passed away, with a caregiver in
attendance. He was 88 years old, six days shy of his 89th birthday.
Perry was taken to the Quattlebaum
- Holleman - Burse Funeral Home in Palm Beach. No doubt his casket was
taken out these side
doors, in one of these hearses.
200 mourners gathered for his funeral, held on May 17th, at St.
Edward's Catholic Church in Palm Beach. Two dozen fans gathered outside the
church. Reporters were not allowed in.
He was laid to rest in Riverside
Memorial Park on the 18th, his birthday.
According to one source, Perry's family was involved in a bitter feud at
the end of his life. Terri and her brother were at odds about Perry's medical
care. Perry had signed a living will in 1999 saying that he should be allowed to
die a peaceful death, not being kept alive by mechanics. Terri said in court
documents that her brother wanted Perry put on a respirator, and a feeding tube.
Nu uh. Eventually the siblings agreed to let Perry live his final days as
naturally as possible, and he did indeed die with dignity.
Perry's estate was valued at $50 million, and distributed amongst his three
children and 13 grandchildren.
For twelve years he hosted a weekly radio show with a man named Johnny Knox.
Trivia: Perry was one of thirteen children. He was the seventh son of a
He and Jackie Gleason had a friendly rivalry for years, because both of their
shows aired on Saturday night. They were actually good friends in real life.
He was with RCA Victor Records from 1943 to 1988.
Bing Crosby referred to him as the man who invented casual.
He and his wife Roselle were high school sweethearts.
His song from 1970, I Believe, was chosen by Dame Barbara
Cartland, to be played at her own funeral in 2000.
In 1999, a statue was dedicated to him in the town he grew up in, Canonsburg, PA.
He was offered the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but he
turned it down. It was also offered to Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, before
finally going to Gene Autry.
Perry kept a vintage barber chair in his house, to remind himself of his
Upon hearing of Perry's death, Vic Damone commented, "When you think
of Perry Como, you think of love, beauty, tolerance, patience. He was a very
humble man; confident but humble."