Thomas Louis Perillo, 59, of Hudson, WI, passed away peacefully on June 26, 2014, surrounded by his family in his home.
Tom was born on June 23, 1955 to Josephine (Linder) and Louis Perillo in Oak Park, IL. His home was with his family and Italian grandparents in Melrose Park, IL until the 5th grade, when his family built a new home in Wood Dale, IL, just west of the Chicago O’Hare Airport. He attended Holy Ghost Grade School in Wood Dale for his remaining elementary education. His high school years were spent at Driscoll High School in Addison, IL, where he started the first varsity hockey team. He was elected captain of the team in his sophomore, junior, and senior years (every season in which he played), and was so proud that his team brought Driscoll its first ever conference title trophy.
Tom was awarded a hockey scholarship at St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, but elected to attend Illinois Benedictine College (IBC) in Lisle, IL in order to be closer to his family. While in college, he started flying lessons, and he had his first solo flight on his 20th birthday. From that moment, he knew aviation was his calling. He played one year of college hockey for IBC, but gave it up so that he could focus on his flying. His four years of college were filled with working part-time, flying, and earning his private, instrument, commercial, multi-engine, certified flight instructor (CFI), and ground flight instructor (GFI) ratings, all while he completed a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
After graduating college, he went on to work as a flight instructor at DuPage County Airport in West Chicago and landed his first flying job with Shawnee Airlines in Miami, FL. He quickly got a taste of the adventures of being an airline pilot when he was held at gunpoint for over two hours upon landing in Havana, Cuba. He went on to fly for Northern Illinois Commuter Airlines, Air Illinois, Air Wisconsin, and finally saw his dream come true of flying for a major airline when he was hired by Northwest Airlines in September of 1983.
Throughout his career, Tom was based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, Anchorage, AK, and Detroit, MI. He had the privilege to fly as a flight engineer on the Boeing 727 and DC-10, as first officer on the B-727 and B-747-200, and as captain on the B-727, B-757, B-767, and his all-time favorite airplanes, the B-747-200 and B-747-400. Tom spent most of his career flying international trips, with London and Hong Kong as his two favorite destinations. Most of his Asian trips revolved around flying in and out of Narita (Tokyo), Japan, which he grew to love as a second home. He had the opportunity to work as a flight instructor on the B-727 and B-747, a job that he truly loved. He was also honored to be appointed an Aircrew Program Designee (APD) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a position reserved for a select few instructors who certify other pilots as captains on behalf of the FAA. In addition, Tom had the privilege to serve as Chief Pilot in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport throughout Northwest’s merger with Delta Airlines. His favorite parts of the Chief Pilot job were ministering to his fellow aviators and working with the group of professionals at Air Traffic Control (ATC). After the merger, Tom was also elected to Delta’s Captain Leadership Team.
In 1980, while working for Air Wisconsin, Tom met coworker Diane Huss, who became the love of his life. They enjoyed their first date on St. Patrick’s Day, 1981, and were married at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom, WI, on October 23, 1982. They were blessed with three sons: Anthony, Michael, and John. Although flying was Tom’s passion, Diane and the boys were his true love and the center of his life. In 1995, while the boys were young, Tom moved his family from the Chicago area to Hudson, WI. With the St. Croix River so close to their new home, Tom knew that he wanted to be able to enjoy the water with his family. He took it upon himself to completely restore an old Gibson houseboat, and he and his family enjoyed many summers of boating, camping, fishing, watersports, and cruising the beautiful St. Croix.
Tom was always active in sports, but his favorite by far was hockey. He enjoyed coaching the local Hudson youth and all three boys in various levels of hockey through the Hudson Hockey Association. Tom even built a rink in his backyard, complete with boards, nets, and lights, so that his boys and friends would have ice to skate on all winter. Tom was a dedicated and accomplished cook and lover of food, particularly Italian and Asian cuisine. He spent decades perfecting his “world-famous” pizza recipe, and it gave him great joy to entertain family and friends with his fabulous cooking. His skill as a brewer and winemaker were a wonderful complement to his talent as a cook. Tom was passionate about music and loved to sing and play the guitar. He was also an avid craftsman and especially enjoyed woodworking. Tom loved the outdoors and his sons and friends will cherish many memories of hunting and fishing trips with him.
Tom was active at St. Patrick Parish and School. He served on the parish council, the parish elders committee, and the building committee for the addition to the school, and he gave generously of his time and talents in countless other ways. Tom and Diane also formed a close relationship with the Sisters at the Carmelite Monastery in Hudson, and Tom sincerely treasured their friendship.
As evident in the tremendous outpouring of love in recent weeks, Tom was truly loved and admired. All those whom he met can attest to the fact that he was a man of great character and faith, with an unparalleled sense of humor. As a friend and coworker so eloquently put it in a recent letter, Tom was “a rare combination of leadership, professionalism, and compassion.” A recurring theme in recent conversations about Tom by his friends and family was his unique ability to make each person he encountered feel special, appreciated, and loved. Though his life was filled with many wonderful accomplishments, this knack for making people feel good about themselves will be Tom’s lasting legacy. Even as his suffering increased, Tom continued to bring laughter and joy the lives of his friends and family. In the final stages of Tom’s illness, he continued to exhibit incredible fortitude, unwavering faith, and unconditional love. Up to his last moments, Diane remained his constant companion, love, comfort, and, as Tom said, his “angel” and his “rock.”
Tom will forever remain in the hearts of his wife Diane; his sons Anthony (girlfriend Molly), Michael, and John; his parents Louis and Josephine; and his brothers John (Cathy), Michael (Christine), and Louis “Skip” (Eve); sisters-in-law Joan (Ron) Hermsen, Ellen (Bruce) Hanlon, and Sharon Huss; as well as his many nieces, nephews, and his godchildren (Danielle Barrett, Christopher Perillo, and Ella Huss).
Tom’s family would like to thank all of the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers at the University of Minnesota Fairview Hospital, Lakeview Homecare & Hospice, and Merwin Medical, especially Tonya VanEe, as well as all of the family members and friends who have offered their love, prayers, and support.
A visitation honoring Tom’s life will be held from 3-8 PM, with an 8 PM Prayer Service, Monday, June 30, 2014 at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1500 Vine St., Hudson, WI, and 1 hr prior to Mass on Tuesday. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 AM Tuesday, July 1 at St. Patrick Catholic Church. Interment will take place at St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Carmelite Monastery of Hudson and Wings Outreach Worldwide.