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Former TV game-show host Jim Perry dies

Noted TV game-show host Jim Perry — the personality of NBC’s “Card Sharks” and “$ale of the Century” — is being remembered as a good family man who loved sitting by the Rogue River and walking in Lithia Park.

After a five-year battle with cancer, he died Friday, Nov. 20, at home in Ashland with his family. He was 82.

Perry lived variously in Ashland, Eagle Point and White City after retiring 20 years ago.

Described by the New York Times as genial and wisecracking, Perry hosted “Card Sharks” from 1978 to 1981 and “$ale of the Century,” a trivia contest, from 1983 to 1989. Sharks was a guessing game based on what card would be drawn next.

On Canadian TV, Perry hosted “Definition” and “Headline Hunters,” often while doing the shows in the U.S.

He was born in New Jersey and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he excelled in basketball. He attended the University of Pennsylvania before working for Armed Forces Radio during the Korean War. He got into show business singing at a resort and later worked as the straight man for legendary comedian Sid Caesar.

“My father always said game shows were meant for fun, to have an escape from everyday life,” said his son, Sean Perry of Los Angeles, in a phone interview. “He lived his life in front of millions of people, but was a private person and held extremely close his family and friends.

“He was a true lover of Southern Oregon, whether enjoying the local wines, sitting on the bank of the Rogue River watching the world go by or taking walks in beautiful Lithia Park.”

A statement from his family said, “Today we lost the greatest father, friend and husband anybody could ever wish for. While he provided decades of entertainment to millions, his greatest victory was his growth as a human being — rising from a childhood filled with challenges, including great poverty — to provide an amazing life for his family. The world is a better place for his having been here.”

Perry is survived by his wife of 56 years, June, daughter, Erin, and son, Sean, who is a partner in the talent agency WME/IMG (formerly William Morris and IMG). They asked that any donations be made to a hospice or cancer organization.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jim Perry, who died Nov. 20 in his Ashland home, starred as the game show host of 'Card Shark,' '$ale of the Century' and more. Photo courtesy of Freemantle Media