H. Perks, streets chief

Posted: October 01, 2013

Harry M. Perks, 85, a former Philadelphia streets commissioner who oversaw construction of the Convention Center, died Sunday, Sept. 29, at his home in Medford, after a long illness.

Mr. Perks, an engineer who graduated from the Citadel and Yale University, never sought the spotlight but always delivered top-quality work.

"Unlike the inflated egos who claim credit for everything that happens in Philadelphia, Perks has been quietly getting very big things done for decades," former Philadelphia Daily News columnist Dave Davies wrote in 1997. "He may be the most important Philadelphian you never heard of."

Mr. Perks was streets commissioner from 1985 to 1988 under Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. He later served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. Earlier, he was deputy superintendent of the Philadelphia School District.

He spent 15 years as executive vice president and president of Day & Zimmerman Inc., an engineering and construction firm. Most recently, he operated his own engineering firm, Perks Reutter Associates, managing the renovation of the Academy of Music and other high-profile projects. He retired in 2008.

"Harry Perks was one of the finest public servants we'll ever know or have the privilege to work with," Mayor Nutter said. "He was smart, honest, sincere, and funny in his own way. He took his public service seriously and operated with the highest ethical standards and instilled those principles in everyone around him. He took on the tough jobs and completed them with great skill. He loved this city and its people."

As much as he gave to his job, he never neglected his family, said son Clark Perks. He taught his sons how to swim, sail, and do woodworking.

"He was streets commissioner when I was in high school, and he came to all my track meets," Perks said. "He was the greatest dad that anyone could possibly hope to have."

Mr. Perks loved golf and tennis and was married to Gladys Middleton Perks for 63 years; she died in 2010.

The family has set up a website about Mr. Perks at Harrymperks.com

In addition to his son, Mr. Perks is survived by three other sons, H. Mark Jr., Chris, and Matthew; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. The family plans a memorial service.





comments powered by Disqus