John S. Perez, a former Isleton mayor and businessman who was a leader in efforts to revitalize the sleepy Delta town, died Friday after a stroke, his family said. He was 85.
Mr. Perez championed development in Isleton while preserving the community’s roots as a settlement for Chinese railroad workers. He was active in civic improvements as a business leader, two-time mayor and longtime volunteer in the waterfront town of about 800 people on the Sacramento River.
First elected to the City Council from 1980 to 1984, he served a term as mayor and supported establishment of a utility district to beautify downtown by putting utility lines underground and upgrading sidewalks, sewers, lighting and other infrastructure. He was re-elected in 1996, served another term as mayor and supported a crackdown on absentee landlords and business incentives to rejuvenate Main Street.
Mr. Perez was instrumental in acquiring riverfront property and building a municipal boat dock on the Sacramento River. He supported construction of a public memorial for Chinese laborers and led efforts to protect buildings from decay in the historic Chinatown district on Main Street.
“I’d like to see Isleton be the best city in the Delta,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 1998.
A former tomato farmer, Mr. Perez opened a successful real estate office on Main Street and owned a laundromat and storage building with his brothers. He was a hands-on leader in the Isleton Lions Club who ran the fireworks booth for the Fourth of July and led a committee that awarded local scholarships.
He raised money for many practical services, from classroom dictionaries and computers for students to optical care and eyeglasses for needy residents. The Lions Club honored him six months ago with a lifetime membership.
“He was always very supportive of helping people in the community,” Lions member Cheryle Apple said. “He did so much for Isleton.”
The son of a Mexican immigrant, John Salvador Perez was born June 20, 1928, in Stockton. One of 11 children born to farmers, he grew up working in tomato fields and later owned a tomato harvesting business with his brothers. He graduated from Rio Vista High School and served in Army artillery units in the Korean War.
A longtime Isleton resident, he was a practical businessman and forward-thinking public servant who was committed to “making Isleton a good town that functioned well,” said his son Joseph Anthony.
Mr. Perez was a diehard San Francisco 49ers fan and a devoted husband and patriarch who enjoyed visiting relatives in Mexico, spending time with his grandchildren and attending annual family reunions. He stressed the importance of education and was proud that all of his children attended college.
“He was an advocate of learning all his life,” his son said.
Mr. Perez is survived by his wife of 55 years, Consuelo; two sons, Joseph Anthony and John Manuel; two daughters, Consuelo Johnson and Ana Maria Kilpatrick; four brothers, Joe, Robert, Frank and Danny; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. April 10 at St. Therese Church, 100 Fourth St., Isleton. Donations may be made out to the John S. Perez Memorial Scholarship Fund and mailed to Joseph Anthony Perez, 225 Camino la Madera, Camarillo, CA 93010.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.