Perri Bell March 26, 1920 January 31, 2017
Priscilla (Perri) Mann Bell died at age 96 on January 31, 2017, attended by loving family in a hospice unit at a Carrollton, Texas, hospital. After independent living in Carrollton since 2011 with devoted help and care from her son Richard, she was recently hospitalized with an infection of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Perri Bell was an active youth, a wartime bride, a devoted wife and mother, of religious spirit, an inspiring teacher, and an adventuresome traveler.She was beloved by many and a talented leader in many activities, especially for her 100’s of students and colleagues in theater. Perri is survived by her older sister Jean, children Rodney III (wife Joan), Richard (Cherye), Priscilla (Jim Reitan), foster daughter Linda Vollentine, and cousin Tracy Ferguson. Including step-(grand)children and Linda’s descendants, Perri is also survived by six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many nephews, nieces, and spouses in a large extended family of over 90 relatives. She was preceded in death by her husband Rodney Jr., his sister Barbara and her husband Bill Bercaw; her brother-in-law Eliot, her younger brother Richard (Dick) and his wife Dosia. Perri lived nearly 45 years in Gonzales, Texas, and, before that, with her husband raising three children in Fort Worth, Virginia, and Tennessee. In Texas she pursued postgraduate education at several universities to obtain a teaching certificate and study theater. As her children left for college she resumed teaching and directing plays before moving to Gonzales. There she taught English, speech, and drama; developed the high school theater program; and directed award-winning high school and community theater. Perri taught, lived, and breathed theater for a decade at Gonzales Independent School District where she inspired thousands of students for a lifetime. At the Gonzales Crystal theater, she directed, acted, and worked in many theater roles, most often with her dearest friend Barbara Crozier, until she was 88. Perri and her students won countless awards throughout her teaching career. After retirement she established a scholarship to continue encouraging students to pursue a career in the arts. She was an active member of the Texas Educational Theater Association, and was an early recipient of their prestigious Founder’s Award. Perri was a founding director and passionate patron of the Crystal Theater in Gonzales, Texas. She was an accomplished actress, inspired director, and talented costume and set designer. She was the co-founder of the Crystal Theater’s acclaimed Young Program and of the Shakespeare Ninja Troupe. She was quoted in an article in 2008, when at 88 years young after directing a monumental production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Crystal, “It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” And enjoy it she did. When she retired from teaching, Perri worked in leisure travel. Over several decades she led group tours and traveled with friends and family all over the world. She traveled to most of the U. S., visited every continent and over 100 countries, saw much of Europe, toured Russia, China, South Pacific, India, S . A merica, and Africa, cruised Europe’s rivers, the Caribbean, and Alaska, and even visited Antarctica. She often presented slideshows and wrote about her travels. In Gonzales, Perri was active in the Presbyterian Church, on the library board, with the youth center - especially raising money, in the Texas Educational theater Association (TETA), and with many clubs including Sesame, Pilot, and Chi Omega. In 2004 TETA gave her an Emeritus Award. In 2007 the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce awarded Perri its Lifetime Achievement Award. Priscilla Evelyn Mann was born March 26, 1920, in Jacksonville, Illinois, to Lecie Evans and Roberts Mann. She grew up during the Depression in Winchester, Illinois, with her two siblings and mother, a teacher. She was valedictorian of her high school class and loved theater and outdoor activities.In 1942, Perri graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in dietetics and many honors. She married her husband Ensign Rodney Bell Jr. in Champaign, Illinois, on September 19, 1942. They moved to Maryland where he served in the U.S. Navy as a civil engineer. Following the war they started a family and settled in Tennessee. They were married over 54 years. For nearly three decades in Gonzales, they were widely known for entertaining at their weekly social gathering FABB (Friday Afternoon Beer and Bottle club). Perri’s body was cremated and will be interred mid-June at the cemetery in W. York, Illinois, next to her husband’s grave. There will be a memorial service in Gonzales in mid-May. Announcements to follow.