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Norwich - The Rev. Gregory A. Perry rode to the New London County Bar Association's annual Law Day Luncheon at the Norwich Inn & Spa on his motorcycle Friday to accept the group's Liberty Bell award.
The theme of Law Day 2013 is "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All," according to Charles K. Norris, president of the local bar association. Perry's family and friends say Perry has devoted his life to those concepts. In particular, they wanted to recognize his efforts to bring members of the community together for the city's yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
"He is a tireless worker," said Shiela Hayes, vice chairman of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemoration Committee. "He never says no. He has a lot of hidden talents and treasures that have benefited the entire Norwich community."
Perry, 60, is the pastor of the Greeneville Congregational Church and president of the Norwich Area Clergy Association. He retired from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services after 28 years. He was a chaplain at Norwich Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital and coordinated the agency's employee assistant program.
Introduced by his son, also named Gregory Perry, as a person whose "mantra is personal responsibility," the pastor stood before the assembly of local attorneys, judges and family and friends and joked that he didn't need a microphone because God had blessed him with a big mouth.
Then he got serious about the theme of the day.
"Being a part of this great nation means we indeed have liberty, but the grace of liberty means not (just) doing the things we want to do," Perry said.
If he was so inclined, Perry said he would probably spend his days putting miles on his motorcycle, a Honda Gold Wing, and hanging out at an area gas station. Perry said he learned by example from his single mother, who worked hard to raise five children, and from other role models who "chose to give up a portion of their life, their liberty and freedom to others."
"I'm absolutely humbled to be recognized with this Liberty Bell award," Perry said. "This is indeed an exciting and amazing honor."
New London Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove, administrative judge for the district, spoke of the courts' role in helping achieve the dreams of liberty and equality for all.
"There have been dreams about the ability to buy a house where one chooses to live," Cosgrove said. "A person might dream about getting the right to a good education regardless of color."
It might be easy to say that these are issues that the U.S. Supreme Court should deal with, Cosgrove said, "But I submit that achieving the dream of equality is a relevant goal for all of us serving in the New London County Bar."
And when a dispute is resolved by the courts, the resolution might not make everyone happy, Cosgrove said, "but it is respected because of how it was achieved."