AUGUSTA — William H. Perry has spent more than 60 years building one business or another. And whether it was selling lemonade or airplanes, Perry has been good at it.

Perry, now in his early 70s — he keeps his exact age secret — has now slowed down. But only a very little bit.

“I’m not here seven days a week anymore,” Perry said. “But when I’m here, I’m here for 10 or 12 hours. That’s what I want.”

Perry, president and co-owner of Maine Instrument Flight and president of Maine Beechcraft, both of which are based at the Augusta State Airport, has been chosen for this year’s Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s lifetime achievement award.

“I can’t wait to get up in the morning and get here because I have no idea how the day is going to unfold,” Perry said. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get tired of it.”

Sitting still has never been one of Perry’s strong suits. He already held a commercial pilot’s license when he graduated from Cony High School in 1958. Perry’s father, William L. Perry, who started Maine Instrument Flight in 1946, refused to test his son for the commercial ratings. “He didn’t want anyone to think there was any favoritism,” Perry said.

Perry started flying part-time for Maine Instrument Flight in 1957, while still in high school, and then attended the Maine Military Academy. He graduated in 1962 with a commission and served 10 years in the army and Army National Guard.

Interested in engineering, Perry took home-study courses and became a registered land surveyor. Perry spent 16 years working on engineering assignments for the Maine Department of Transportation.

He married his wife, Katherine, in 1962 and they had five children. By 1976, Perry had hit a wall: Work left him no time for his family.

“I asked myself, ‘What did I really want to do?’ ” Perry said. “That was flying.”

Perry became an instructor and began flying charters for Maine Instrument Flight and he opened Maine Beechcraft, turning it into one of the top dealerships in the country.

Perry also developed Self-Storage of Maine, which he sold in 1999. He continues to own and operate Belfast Self Storage.

But Perry doesn’t begin the story of his life with his work. He wants to talk first about the playing fields. Perry was a founding president of the Capitol Area Recreation Association, which — during the last 36 years — has built more than a dozen athletic fields and courts used by area recreation leagues.

“We were all just a bunch of dreamers,” Perry said. “The layout there now is pretty similar to what we hoped would happen, but I don’t think I know if any of us allowed ourselves to really believe it actually would happen.”

Perry also was chairman of the general gifts committee for the Harold Alfond Cancer Center Capital Campaign and has been involved with many other community-minded activities, including representing his hometown of Chelsea on what is now the board for Regional School Unit 12. Perry said his goal was to make sure Chelsea students had the same opportunities as their counterparts in the surrounding cities of Augusta and Gardiner.

“I think education is foundational of everything,” he said. “If you don’t have a well-recognized educational program, it’s a little tough to sell anything else.”

Perry said he learned the value of community service as a child. His father was a selectman in town and later a state legislator, while his father-in-law was a state senator. “It wasn’t anything I needed to stop and think about,” Perry said of his public service. “I think a lot of it was the way I was brought up.”

Perry will be honored later this month at a banquet at the Augusta Civic Center that will draw business owners and representatives from across the region.

“I’m going to go to that dinner and sit in a room of 800 achievers and get an award for achieving,” Perry said. “I don’t really see why I’m that special, but if they think so I’ll gladly accept the award. It’s a great honor.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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