The End of the Perkins Era

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Jo Ann Perkins. Photo: Clover Carroll.

Jo Ann Perkins wears a lot of hats. But her full hat closet has just been reduced by a big floppy one: she recently retired from her volunteer post as treasurer of Claudius Crozet Park after nearly 40 years of loyal service. In this role, she handled finances for the twice-annual Arts & Crafts Festival, served as treasurer of the Gators Swim Team, and was liaison with the Crozet Trails Crew (which shares in the park’s non-profit status).

“It has been a wonderful ride and I did enjoy meeting and working with so many interesting folks,” Jo Ann reflected. “But I needed to share the fun and pass the baton to someone else.” After many years of searching for a replacement, last year someone else finally agreed to take on this vital and demanding position handling finances for Crozet’s community-owned park. “I was able to attend last fall’s Arts & Crafts Festival as a festival goer for the first time in so many years,” said Jo Ann happily. “And I’m looking forward to the fact that this year, I will actually have a Mother’s Day.” 

Perkins gate at Claudius Crozet Park. Photo: Clover Carroll.

“When I joined the park’s board of directors, there was a lot about its history and how it operated that I simply didn’t know. As the park’s long-term treasurer (and historian), Jo Ann was always willing to share with me her long-time knowledge of the park and the Crozet community,” attested Kim Guenther, park board president. “But more importantly, Jo Ann teaches the importance of giving back to our community. Jo Ann epitomizes what volunteerism is all about and how to live a full life devoted to community, family, and friends (while also traveling the world!). Jo Ann teaches by example.” CTC treasurer Teri Kostiw agreed. “It was always a pleasure to work with Jo Ann for the Trails Crew finances. She was always quick to respond to any requests. But more than that, she is a fun, outgoing person and an asset to the Crozet community.”

Jo Ann and Walter Perkins were instrumental in making Crozet the town it is today. Married for 54 years until his death in 2004, they moved to Crozet in 1968. Walter served on the Albemarle County School Board, the Board of Supervisors for 16 years, the PVCC Board for 10 years, and the Claudius Crozet Park Board for more than 30 years. A forester with Westvaco—now WestRock—Walter served the state of Virginia to inventory all public and private forest lands in the state. Jo Ann, who  continues to manage their tree farm, and was named Virginia Tree Farmer of the Year in 2012. The Perkins gate off Park Road states, “In honor of Jo Ann and Walter Perkins’ dedicated service to our community.” “It was Walter who persuaded VDOT to give them that opening, as an extra exit point on that side of the park,” Jo Ann explained.

When Walter, who joined the park board soon after they moved here, told her the park needed a new treasurer, she reluctantly stepped up. The Crozet community had helped the family through childbirth, child raising, and illness—bringing food, driving kids to school, and offering support. “‘It takes a village,’ Walter told me. ‘We need to pay back this community.’ How could I say no to that?” A founding faculty member at both Henley Middle School and Western Albemarle High School (WAHS), she served the park faithfully while raising three children, earning her M.A. and beyond at U.Va., and teaching calculus and algebra 2 for 28 years until her retirement in 2004. “We did it because Crozet is a community who CARES,” Jo Ann explained. “I just pray that, with all the new homes being built and new folks moving in, that community-mindedness will continue.”

Jo Ann Perkins. Photo: Clover Carroll.

In 2011, the park was being audited by the IRS, and the agent asked her to write out how their finances were handled. Jo Ann drew him an elaborate cartoon to describe the process they used, from drop-off of bills authorized for payment by the park president in her “magic mailbox” to the IRS 990 form submitted by the CPA at the end of the year. The auditor liked her illustration so much, he asked her to sign his copy! She paid every bill within five days of receiving it. She also managed payroll for the park’s 30 employees. “I think in cartoons,” she explained. “I used them to teach math because it made numbers come alive. I remember that Pi had a hat.” She also used cartoons at the end of every chapter in A History of Mathematics: An Introduction by Victor Katz, to which she contributed. 

The “retired” section of the hat closet also includes the witch hat she wore in myriad faculty skits at WAHS. But that hat closet is far from empty: Jo Ann still serves the Green Olive Tree as chairman of the board, is secretary of the Crozet Community Association, is active in the Senior Center, walks for 30 minutes five days a week, and teaches an exercise class at the Meadows on Monday afternoons. “I love to travel,” she added, with several trips in the planning stages. “I’m writing a memoir, taking Shakespeare classes with OLLI, and plan to write a cookbook called Cooking for One with No Leftovers.” Clearly, Jo Ann does not know the meaning of the word “boredom.” She is a model of good citizenship, enterprise, and joie de vivre. We thank her for her life of public service and wish her much joy and adventure in her retirement. 

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