It was a simple fact of life for many families during World War II that they may wake up to find a simple typed letter with a blank spot filled in by the name of a dead son, husband or father.
“The Navy department deeply regrets to inform you that your ‘(blank)’ is missing following action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country,” the telegram would read, leaving the family with no more details.
Perry Dolan, a retired local swim coach and author, still has the one his mother received on May, 18 1944, filled in with his father’s name, Clarence Dolan. There was no body, no casket and no ceremony. Perry was 4 years old.
The Kirkland resident outlines these details in his memoir, “No Place To Cry,” which recounts most of his life as he and his family attempted to cope with their tragic loss.
“It’s about what people like myself go through when they lose a parent or a loved one in a time of war when they’re young and the time that it takes to find out that person loved you,” he said. “Your life changes, you’re able to cope and realize that you weren’t alone.”
Originally, Perry never intended to publish his memoir into a book. He wrote it for himself and perhaps for his children to find and read someday.
His intentions began to change once he visited Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, which hosts the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in 1997.
“Second cube on the left,” Perry said with a pause, referring to where his father’s name is located. “It still hurts.”
He spent more than an hour and a half with his father’s name on the wall.
“Everything came out, every emotion that I ever had. Why did you leave us? What did we do? I hate you,” Perry said, holding back tears. “I told him at the end that I loved him and to say ‘hello’ to mom…Then I wiped my tears on his name.”
Perry began to more seriously write his memoir after this, but was still writing it for himself until 2015 while he was fighting to change the official reason for his father’s death.
According to the U.S. Navy, Clarence drowned on a fishing trip, which was an authorized liberty. Perry said this means they were allowed to use a Navy vessel to go fishing. According to Perry and several letters featured in his book, this is a false explanation the Navy would use in certain circumstances.
Perry’s findings indicate that his father was on an authorized work trip to examine the cargo of a sunken ship and his crew were killed by a suspected mine. These reports were inconclusive as the Navy only ever recovered the hull of their craft after a four-day search.
The Navy initially rejected his request to change the record due to lack of evidence, but Perry is still searching for closure as he appeals his case to the Board of Correction of Naval Records.
Perry celebrates his book release Saturday as he still waits for a reply from the BCNR. The release party will be at 2:30 p.m. at BookTree Kirkland, 609 Market St.
“Look for a great place to park if you can,” he said with a laugh. “I chose that place because it’s local and it’s reminiscent of what bookstores are and should be.”
Perry’s memoir will be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Perry dedicated the book to his own children and anyone who has lost a loved one.
“They are not alone, and there is a place to cry if they look hard enough,” the dedication reads.
In addition to being a resident, Perry has an extensive history in the community as a swim coach. He was the Inglemoor High School girls swim coach for the 2011-13 seasons. The team took sixth, ninth and sixth place at state under Perry’s coaching.
“I’ve held a lot of positions, but coaching and working with these young wonderful kids was probably the highlight of my life,” he said. “And the pay didn’t matter.”
Perry’s coaching career included time at Columbia Athletic Club in Kirkland, WAVE Aquatics on the Eastside and Olympic Cascade Aquatics in Mercer Island.
A SEARCH FOR CLOSURE
Perry’s emotions are evident in the pages of his memoir as he recounts his childhood, adolescence and adult life, which were all impacted by his father’s death.
The memoir ends with Perry still fighting for closure, but his story continues beyond the book. As he awaits a response from the BCNR, he’s worked with the Navy to organize a memorial service for his father in June in San Francisco.
The service will feature a presentation of the colors for Perry and his brothers as well as a 21-gun salute and flag ceremony.
“It’s going to be a culmination of everything I’ve felt,” Perry said. “It’ll be an ending. It’ll be a chance to put it away.”