Those hugs. Yes, you know them. The ones that don’t allow you to coyly retreat into your own space, but let you take a moment to breathe in love, vitality, and joy. Those who felt their warmth know exactly what I’m talking about. Nobody on Bainbridge Island could give a hug like Pernell.
Upon hearing about Pernell’s decease on Oct. 30, a friend remarked, “A light has gone out on Bainbridge.” But as we all know, the glow of such light embraces us when we least expect it. The life and love of Pernell Tyus cannot be easily dimmed. This community came together to celebrate this radiance on Nov. 16 at Grace Episcopal Church. What transpired was an inspiring and uplifting remembrance of this Hollywood cinematographer, veteran, baker, gardener, dog rescuer, activist, husband to Glynis Burns, friend to countless and giver of heartwarming hugs.
Here are some of the memories shared by friends, neighbors, colleagues, and admirers of Pernell.
“Sometimes I think of a poem as something that arrives and is sent to the poet and it goes through the poet to the world. This poem I think is a gift from Pernell through Jenny to all of us, especially Glynnis.” — Barb Magusin, friend
Written by Jenny Coates
Never take a person’s light
Its flicker is a fragile thing,
to be savored
as special, always with
for its evanescence.
You never know when
someone you love will exit
your life to cross
a threshold whose door is not
yet open to you.
Hug them now.
Hold them dear now.
“There is a subset of famous people who are recognizable by one name only – like Elvis. Now in our world here on Bainbridge we had and have a famous person and his name is Pernell…. He had strength of character, his words were congruent with his deeds, and he was the embodiment of integrity.” — Charlie Bell, close friend
“When I think of Pernell I think of one word: hug. Nothing heals like a hug. I met Pernell at a Rotary Auction – in the camera section. The interesting thing about Pernell for me is that despite his Hollywood background he never was looking for the spotlight. Ever. He was always looking to share that with somebody else. For us in the Rotary Club our motto is “service without self.” That’s Pernell. The thing I liked most about Pernell (besides the hugs) was that every time I saw him we engaged in small talk. Family, friends… The talk that warms the soul. I’m going to miss the small talk and I’m going to miss the hugs.” — Tom McCloskey, Bainbridge Rotary Club
“What a loss! Every time I was with Pernell he “lit up the room.” I really miss his famous bear hugs. I miss him greatly.” — Mike Lewars, AHB board member and friend
“Pernell’s legacy is love. Every time I saw Pernell he always spoke about love. I felt I was led to [sing] this song, called, “The Glory of Love” from the movie, Beaches. ” — Stephanie Reese, world-renowned singer and friend
“I met Pernell just a couple of years ago – because we’re both filmmakers. He made big films in Hollywood and I make small films on Bainbridge Island. And right away he felt like an old friend. We’re going to have to be giving a lot more hugs to make up for the vacuum. I offer this small tribute to a very large man.” — Steve Stolee, documentary filmmaker and friend
“I [knew] Pernell through Glynnis. When I finally met Pernell he was larger than life. I’m from Hawai’i and he knew that we always give lots of hugs in Hawai’i. And we give a lot of Aloha. Aloha means love. Aloha means hello… Aloha means goodbye, but we will return again someday to meet each other.” — Friend
“He always made you feel so important. He would give his undivided attention and then he was off spreading joy to the rest of the world.” — Friend
“He made me feel like the most important person in the world. [His actions] inspired me to try and be more present. No matter how stressful a situation is, try to make it come alive with some joy.” — Acquaintance
“Back in the 1990s a movie came out called, “Star Trek Generations.” I was fascinated with the production side of things. On the dedication plaque for The Enterprise that was launched in that film – for one of the people responsible for the construction of that ship – was Pernell Tyus. At one Rotary, I was going through the camera department looking for a camera lense. I noticed his name tag. [When he heard my recollection] he began grinning wider and wider. When I wrapped up he said, “Yup, that was me.” I had a fanboy moment. I recognized that he’d [played an important part in the film] and I could see the pride that he took in it.” — Fan, Bainbridge Rotary Auction & Rummage Sale
USS Enterprise dedication plaque. Images courtesy of Fandom.
“He had time for everyone in a wonderful, wonderful way.” — Neighbor
“There was and always will be an amazingly wonderful man.” — Patty Bell, AHB board member and close friend
For a complete biography of the life of Pernell Tyus, visit the Cook Family Funeral Home website.
INEZ MAUBANE JONES – Staff Writer for Currents and member of Currents Editorial Board