Leave it to Anibal Perez (aka Mr. Clean) to leave this world at age 85 on Veteran's Day. It was his favorite holiday because he served during the Korean War with pride. Anibal was the third of eight children born in Quebradillas, P.R. on July 8, 1936. For years, however, we celebrated it on the 9th because we never really saw his birth certificate until my mom had to get a copy when he applied for Medicare. He said we owed him a present for every year we missed. He had a great sense of humor.
Anibal leaves behind his wife Agustina Perez of almost 56 years. They were wed on December 12, 1965. He said he married her because she had class. As a newlywed he tattooed his calf with a heart and the initials A.P. inside. Together they had 5 children and they named them all so that their first names would begin with the letter A. This way if mom ever left him, he wouldn't need to get the tattoo removed. We call it "Being A Perez" (Anita, Alicia, Aileen, Anibal Jr. and Agustina) He is survived by Anita Perez-DeVos, son-in-law Russ DeVos, and her children Deidra Rodgriguez, son-in-law Juan Rodriguez, and Garrett Wilbur. Alicia Miletic, son-in-law Danny, and their two children Daniel and Christian. Anibal Perez Jr., daughter-in-law Christine and their two children Evan and Brayden. Aileen Noal, son-in-law Steve and her children Brandon Ramos and wife Jenna and daughter Sara. Agustina Mishra, son-in-law Raman and their son Radley. Anibal also leaves behind 3 great grandchildren, James, Luis and Isabella Ramos. He is known as Papa or Papa Chico to his grandchildren. He is also survived by his siblings Max Perez, Hiram Perez and Milagros Gonzalez.
Work was important to Anibal. Being a landscaper for Reinhardt Landscaping, he learned how to carefully tend to his garden and could make a tree grow up against a lattice in such a way, you would never know it was a tree. He moved on from landscaping to transportation being employed by NJ Transit for 27 years before retiring. He took his bus driving seriously. So much so, he'd practice picking up riders with us. On Sundays he'd pack us all into the station wagon and on the way to church, he made us get out at one corner and run to the next, where he then made us give him a quarter to get back in the car! Okay,even if that wasn't entirely true, we would have done it in a minute if he asked us to. It would be the kind of game he'd make up to entertain us. He loved his riders and handled them with great care on his route up and down Main on the 44, now the 74. Oh the stories he'd tell of difficult and special riders near to his heart, the epic snowstorms and more.
He faithfully took his wife and children to church each Sunday and many of the young teens looked up to him and respected him for his wisdom, discipline, and caring. Anibal was known as the sergeant of Our Lady of Fatima in Passaic, NJ. He'd walk up and down the aisle checking that none of the kids were chewing gum, running up and down the stairs or hanging around in the lower church rooms. At home, Anibal ended all of our mealtime prayers with a nonsensical phrase, "Barraru, barraru." We often commented that we didn't know he could speak in tongues! He'd always laugh. His children know it was his way of saying he loved them.
Nothing made us happier than to see how he treated our friends. They still remember him. He loved them as his own and wasn't afraid to yell at them like his own, as well! He was generous with everything he had and we learned to do the same by watching him love others.
Anibal was one of the funniest people you could ever meet. His quick wit, funny faces, and crazy noises made his stories come alive. If he told it in English with his heavy Spanish accent, people would inevitably get it once one of us repeated it and he just waited for their reaction with eyes wide open so they could laugh together. His son-in-laws who speak no Spanish became "Anibal-speak experts". If you were extra special, you got a new name! Tanya was Toronja (grapefruit), Lisa was Meleesa, Justin was Justin time, Jason was Jackson and vice versa. As kids we'd listen to a joke he told in Spanish and laugh with him, even though we didn't understand it because his laugh was contagious.
Anibal Perez wasn't perfect but we know he loved us and would do anything for us. He spent Saturdays teaching us how to clean the house army style which is why he earned the nickname Mr. Clean. No clean, no play. He showed us how to care for the things we owned, how to paint, sheetrock, use a hammer and make the best peanut butter and jelly cracker sandwiches you ever had! Which, if you didn't know, he invented. At least that's what he told his children. He gave them a love of all kinds of music from Spanish Jazz to Country to 50s oldies and Polka!. He was the resident D.J. of all our parties.
The latest love in life was his dog Tootie. The family gave him Tootie as a Christmas present 7 years ago. As she walked into the room and toward my father, he looked at us and asked, "You're taking that dog home with you, right?" It was lots of love and treats from that day on. Tootie will miss her dad putting a treat in his pocket for her to find.
His greatest love was for his wife. It was constant. Friday night was date night at home. Dad would put on their music, make drinks and mom would cook surf and turf. They'd laugh, dance and eat. Any of his children or family were invited to join in their special night and to witness the love they had for each other.
He will be missed by so many friends. His family will carry him in their hearts and hear his voice with his accent as they retell his stories with others. We will always remember you, Anibal Perez, our hero. Barraru, barraru.
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