RENAISSANCE MAN: a clever man who is interested in, is proficient in, and knows a lot about many different things
The Renaissance period lasted from about 1400 to 1600 a.d. The person who best defined the era was Leonardo da Vinci.
Chances are, in our hamlet of El Paso de Robles, we have a few Renaissance men. However, I’ll wager that most don’t recognize this soft-spoken man as one of them. His name is GARRETT PERNEY. Now that you see his picture here, you’re probably saying, “Oh yeah, I know him.”
But, do you?
Garrett was born in Topeka and, at age 5, his family moved here. Actually, his mom’s side of the family goes back 5 generations in Paso – back to being homesteaders! Mom and dad met while dad was at Camp Roberts so it wasn’t a big stretch to end up in Paso.
Garrett grew up a product of those times 50 years ago. By 12 he was doing honest physical labor on the farm and through his Bearcat years, that continued. He took summer-work as a carpentry framer, concrete former and of all things, a custom window maker. He managed to fit football into his schedule, where he lettered as a sophomore while The Cats were CIF champs. He was also on the wrestling squad. By graduation, Garrett could do a lot of different stuff!
At graduation, Garrett was accepted to Cal Poly but really soon, he found out that wasn’t where he belonged – not yet anyway! America’s world was decently peaceful so off to the Navy he went and for four years, Garrett was stationed in Norfolk, VA; Millington, TN; and then San Diego. He was a librarian, went through anti-submarine school and then was an air crewman and, he became a search and rescue swimmer. Garrett was also a fire-fighter for 2 summers back when it was called CDF. He just kept continuing to learn and absorb new opportunities as they presented themselves.
Next came a stint back home at what then was Heatons’ Hardware at 13th and Park. Garrett ‘s background made him a natural with hardware knowledge but something bigger was itching at him. The farm-days reached into Garrett and poof, he was back at Cal Poly. This time it was serious and he received his BS in Animal Sciences. He’d studied enough biology and genetics to know that those two avenues were where he wanted to drive his car. And indeed, he did drive that car up to Mt. View where he landed a position with Beckton-Dickinson as a geneticist. A chance meeting with a professor from Cal Tech led to accepting a fabulous career at UAF – University of Alaska-Fairbanks. As a lab tech, Garrett was basically a ‘Swine and Cattle Herdsman’ for eleven years working on specific strains of genetics; rather like some early days in the science of cloning. It could take this entire issue of PASO Magazine to describe his experiments and successes.
The next foray was into Marine Biology where he worked on DNA. The sample-sizes were waaayyy smaller than the micron level. He was measuring biological activity that could support life in lakes where, as the water temperature changed, so did the ability of organisms to grow on available food sources.
Garrett was “willing to try anything” that was a challenge. He says he was truly blessed to have people come into his life who would teach him and pose the question of “What can you do to make this better?” So, is it any surprise to you that Garrett began rebuilding a single-engine 1946 plane? He also plays classical guitar and is now building one himself. Garrett knew his way around meat and knives from both his early farm days and lab years in Alaska. A super-market store begged him to be their meat-cutter until he could train a replacement! Garrett has built hand-made wooden boats and became an avid photographer in the “old-style” of taking pictures using film. As long as you’re going to take the photos, why not develop them yourself? So, he does that too in a darkroom he built to be mobile so wherever he wants to travel and take photos, by that night he can have them developed and printed.
After 19 years in Alaska, Garrett settled back in Paso with his dad on the old family farm now down to 20 acres. There are a few horses and half dozen cats and sleepy-eyed dogs to keep the men company in the evenings. Paso is also closer to his daughter and the grandkids.
What’s he up to days? As Garrett describes himself, “He’s Your TrueValue Man.” Garrett works full time at Blake’s (Riverside and 17th) as one of two full-time hardware salesmen. He is the go-to custom-color paint guy. He’s created hundreds and hundreds of custom colors for customers and each one is recorded so he can find it any ol’ time they ask for it!
Garrett credits all those people along his journey who coached and taught him to try, to dig deeper, to ask more, to question thoroughly and to stick with it. He says he believes that’s why he now can help people who come into the store with their hardware issues. Garrett said when his fellow Roblans stand there with a “mish-mash of stuff in their hands and a look of despair and bewilderment on their faces,” it’s a good day when he can help.
Here’s the answer to the question you’re dying to ask. Garrett hasn’t shaved the distinguishing beard off his face since Feb. 4, 1977!
Did you really know Garrett Perney? He’s a real Renaissance Man, and we’re lucky to have him in town. I’m sure Leonardo da Vinci is smiling!