James N. Perkins
KENT – Jim Perkins, entrepreneur, writer, sportsman, conservationist and patriot, died April 16, 2019.
He was 85.
Born in Littleton, N.H., a hardscrabble town near the Canadian border, he was the son of Nick and Lucia Perkins, who emigrated from Greek Macedonia. His parents built a life in Littleton, opening a popular restaurant, The White Mountain Café, where Jim learned to wash dishes, bake pies and make friends. The family later opened the Perkins Motel, the first Florida style resort motel in the state.
Jim grew up hiking, hunting, fishing and skiing, fostering a lifelong love of the mountains and respect for the environment. The beneficiary of his parents’ reverence for education, Jim graduated from Williston Academy and Dartmouth College.
While at Dartmouth he was mentored by Corey Ford, a prolific humor and nature writer. While still in college, Jim was published in The Saturday Evening Post and Field and Stream, and co-wrote a screenplay for John Wayne’s independent film company, Batjac Productions.
Jim described his rich and varied career as “moving words and pictures in various ways.” His early achievements included executive positions with Curtis Publishing, Doubleday & Co., Playboy Press and The Times Mirror Co., where he initiated successful book projects such as the Outdoor Bible Series and the Audubon Nature Encyclopedia, which sold millions of copies.
Following his corporate publishing career. Jim started his own marketing agency. He went on to originate “The Home Shopping Show,” a half-hour program delivered by satellite on which national advertisers such as Revlon, Pillsbury and Chevrolet demonstrated their products. Advertising Age called Jim a “new media visionary and one of the original cable idea men.”
He joined with the Hearst Corp. and ABC Television to head a venture specializing in cable programming, and is credited with creating the original Lifetime and ARTS networks. Next, he followed the developing technology, creating communication projects for a joint venture between Citibank, Nynex and RCA called CNR Partners.
Conservation was a continuing thread in Jim’s life. As an Air Force lieutenant he worked in the Office of Public Information. He became a captain and as one of the most junior officers in the Pentagon, Jim developed a program to designate Air Force bases as conservation areas. His concept was accepted and it is credited with protecting some 30 million acres and hundreds of endangered species of plants and animals on military bases around the world. For this big idea, Jim received The U.S. Commendation Medal, the nation’s second highest peacetime award. More recently he was honored again by the Department of Defense for “One Good Idea.” After moving to Litchfield County, Jim became a trustee of the Sunny Valley Association, protecting 2,500 acres. He originated and chaired the New Milford Inland Wetlands Commission and was president of the Housatonic Valley Association.
He received an official citation from the Connecticut General Assembly for helping to protect thousands of acres in Kent from projected casino development.
An avid athlete, Jim loved cruising on his trawler The Chimera, and was still skiing in his 80s in Colorado and Montana. He also loved golf, heading up the Northwest Seniors League, and was a 28-year member of the Lake Waramaug Country Club.
Fearless, intelligent, hardworking, stylish, curious, generous and fun, he was known as “a guy who makes things happen.” Beloved husband, father, brother and patriarch, Jim is survived by Judy, his wife of 40 years, and daughters Susan (an M.B.A., CFA, attorney and skydiver), Karen (a Ph.D in molecular biology, educator and triathlon competitor) and Elizabeth (a stage, film and television actor). His survivors also include his sister Pamela Perkins; brothers-in-law Bruce Berger and James Holb; sons-in-law Julio Macat and Jon Stark; his aunt Catherine Tegu; eight grandchildren; and many talented cousins, nieces and nephews, all of whom Jim loved and respected as individuals. He was preceded in death by his sister, Nitsa Perkins Bailey.
Jim’s autobiography “By Way of Luck-How Chance Shaped a Storied Life,” chronicles his ever evolving adventures.
Services will be June 8 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kent, where Jim was a member of the vestry. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Kent Memorial Library, the Kent Volunteer Fire Department or the Kent Land Trust.
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