Popular Proctor science teacher remembered
When sixth-grade math teacher Erick Perala meets parents during conferences at Proctor's middle school, he often gets asked whether he is "Ron's son." "He loved to hear that," said Erick Perala, whose father's 30-year teaching career inspired him...
When sixth-grade math teacher Erick Perala meets parents during conferences at Proctor's middle school, he often gets asked whether he is "Ron's son."
"He loved to hear that," said Erick Perala, whose father's 30-year teaching career inspired him to join the profession and to work in the same school district.
Ron Perala, 69, died Tuesday from complications related to pulmonary hypertension. The longtime Brule resident was beloved by students and fellow staff, shown in the outpouring of grief by scores of alumni on social media following his death this week.
Perala, who retired from Proctor High School in 2006, never had a negative thing to say about his students, said Julie Perala, his wife of 35 years.
"No, he loved them all," she said Thursday. "He absolutely loved teaching. He thought those kids were awfully doggone special."
Ron Perala, who taught several science courses at the high school, was famous for pulling pranks with fellow science teachers and bestowing nicknames on students, some that he still used years later when he ran into them. He didn't always remember their names, Erick said, but he remembered their faces and where they sat in his class.
"He might forget a name but he didn't forget the person," he said.
Tamara Larsen, a 1993 graduate, said she took "any class he taught."
"It didn't matter the subject, he made it interesting," she said. "He was the one teacher who kept me wanting to learn more."
And like so many others, Larsen kept in touch with Perala long after high school, exchanging messages about family and life every couple of months, she said.
"It didn't seem like I had to do much to make him proud. He was just so genuine," she said.
Jeremy Bennett, a 1995 graduate, visited Perala at his home several times in the last decade.
"His ability to connect with kids was definitely rare," he said. "He could tell if someone was having trouble, feeling down. He would engage that student, bring him into the conversation, bring him into the class."
He was adept at reaching all kids, his son Erick said, even "more difficult students."
"Those were the kids I think he really connected with," he said.
And it wasn't just students that were drawn to Perala. He could make friends anywhere, Julie said, "forming relationships in days or in moments."
"He loves talking to people," she said.
The avid angler and outdoorsman was a devoted father as his sons grew up, enjoying time with them "out in the woods," Erick said, on the family's land near the mouth of the Brule River. He made his own lures for catching steelhead and salmon and tied his own flies. But he told the News Tribune in a 2015 story about fishing the Brule that he didn't keep many of his catches.
"I don't eat fish," he said. "I wish you could fish for steaks and pizzas."
He was a fun person, inside and outside of class, Bennett said, noting that to his delight, Erick Perala has Bennett's son in class this year.
"And of course, he is my son's favorite teacher," he said.
Ron Perala is survived by Julie and sons Erick (Emily) Perala and Matt Perala, who is a physician in Michigan. A visitation for him is from 4-6 p.m. Friday at Sunrise Funeral Home in Hermantown.