DEPUE — June Perry and Charley Bradley were deeply in love and planned to spend the rest of their lives together. She was 16 and he was 18.
Then on Feb. 26, 1972 their lives and plans all came crashing down.
Along with her mother and sister, June watched from the shore as her father’s boat race turned to tragedy. Don Perry’s boat flipped five times on the back stretch and he was killed instantly.
Boat racing took everything that was most dear to June Parry’s heart when she lost her father that day in Frostproof, Fla. She wanted nothing more to do with the sport or anyone associated with it. That included the love of her life, Charley.
“When there were no more races, my world ended and I was so angry and so full of pain I pushed everyone away from me...and especially Charley. I knew I couldn’t stand the loss a second time,” she says. “Later in life I vowed that if God ever granted me a second chance with Charley, I would take it! Thankfully, that’s what happened.”
That second chance would take 40 years. Both went their separate ways and made their separative lives, each married three times.
“Both of us have been married three times; couldn’t get it right,” Charley says. “If I had any sense I would have stayed with her and we’d still be together today. It was a wonderful time of my life, I’ve regretted the day we broke up.”
About two and a half years ago, in Charley words, “we found each other,” and he finally got her to come to a boat race. On Thursday, on the shores of Lake DePue, in front of their boat racing family and friends, June and Charley were united in marriage. Finally.
“It’s 42 years in the making,” Charley says excitedly. “They all know June and they all know me and they said we deserved each other and they were happy to see me happy again.”
“Over the years I have learned ‘you cannot replace that which is irreplaceable,’” June says. “Everyone I ever married was only, what I called, ‘A poor man’s Charley Bradley.’ Neither of us will ever settle for second best again. I told him that he needs to live a long time because he owes me 42 years, and the clock starts on the day we (got) married!
“God gave us a second chance and we live every day to the fullest. God is great and life is good!”
Boat racer’s daughter
June calls herself a “BRD” …. a boat racer’s daughter. Her family’s life revolved around following her father’s racing career.
“When other people told stories about their fathers who were plumbers or whatever, my father raced boats. He was my hero,” she said. “It was a family event. My mother, sister and I were my dad’s ‘all girl pit crew’ and we all had red hair and a pet raccoon. I guess I didn’t know how to be ‘normal’ because we had such a wonderful and exciting life.”
She didn’t have much time for anything else other than boat racing. Then she met Charley, a third-generation racer at a boat race in 1971, and it was love at first sight for both of them.
When the young sweethearts didn’t have weekend races to attend in their home state of Florida, Charley would travel from Gainesville where he was attending the University of Florida to visit her in Jacksonville.
They were inseparable until her father’s tragic accident. June became a mess when her father died and separated herself from racing, including Charley.
“She just didn’t want to have anything with boat racing, period, whether it was a driver, the activity, because that’s what took her dad away from here,” Charley says. “She’s been hiding from herself all these years and … she’s back.”
After all these years, it’s really been like they never been a part.
“When you are young and in love for the first time, you think it’s normal when you know what the other person is thinking or feeling...and often finish each other’s sentences. I found out the hard way, that isn’t true,” June says.
“Charley is my soul mate, of that I am sure. All these years apart, I still had him in my heart and he still had me in his heart. We still know what each other is thinking and feeling and we still finish each other’s sentences. It took many years for me to be at peace with my father’s death, but I know he died the way he wanted to. I also made my peace with boat racing. Now we have a racing team and look forward to every race! Sometimes we drive for two days, wait around all day for Charley’s event and it’s over in a few minutes. What can I say? It’s definitely ‘in the blood.’”
Admittedly, June is always anxious every time Charley gets in a boat.
“I am in constant prayer through the whole race, but he is doing the thing he loves most and I love it too. When he has a good ride and he gives me that winning smile, it’s all worth it! I am, after all, a BRD and (now) a boat racer’s wife.”
“She tells me to have fun,” Charlie says. “She knows I’m not going to push it enough to where I’m going to hurt the equipment or me. Dad always told me you got to get out front and the accident happens behind you.”
It was an accident that separated them years ago, but it was no accident they’ve got back together again.