Robert P. Perel, lawyer, itinerant traveler, man-of-letters and collector of art celebrated his 80th birthday on 8 August 2022 with his wife, Linda Yee Chew, family, and a few close friends at his El Paso home on the eastern slope of the Franklin Mountains before expiring 11 August facing the morning sunrise with wife and sister at his side. Graveside service is scheduled for Sunday, 14 August at 10:30 am at Mount Sinai Cemetery in the Concordia.
Predeceased by his parents, Eddie Perel and Frances Rosenfield, and his older and younger brothers, Stephen and John. Survived by his wife, Linda Yee Chew, judge 327th District Court, nephew Richard (Ximena) Perel of Scottsdale, AZ, niece Nancy (George) Siegel of San Antonio, TX, and nephew Wellington (Alexandra) Chew, of Austin, TX, niece Linda Li Chew of Tucker, GA, niece Bailey Chew of Oklahoma, OK, and nephew Spencer Chew of El Paso, TX.
Bobby grew up in Victoria, Texas where his father owned several sporting and merchant goods stores. He and his brothers, Stephen and John all attended the University of Texas at Austin and all were members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Bobby graduated in 1963 and then University of Texas School of Law in 1966. The Perel brothers were Longhorn fans, but Bobby was preternaturally a Longhorn fan.
He met Steve Bercu when they were freshmen and they became lifelong compadres. After Bobby and Steve passed the bar and were licensed as Texas lawyers in 1966, Bobby immediately left for Israel then went to England and completed an LLM at the University of London. He later joined Steve in Munich and they began a year of international travel in Steve Bercu’s VW, driving first to Istanbul and then through eastern Europe in the first year that westerners could drive in Communist bloc countries. Returning to the U.S. in 1968, he worked for the Interstate Commerce Commission but found it tiresome, so he went to East Africa until he ran out of money; then he returned to Dallas, Texas and found a job with Bercu at the Dallas City Attorney’s office. When he had saved enough money, he quit that job and traveled to England, then Asia – Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, then Burma, Thailand Malaysia, Singapore, Timor and then Australia, where he got residency status so he could work, first as a teacher in Sydney for a school year then moved to Dunedin, New Zealand to work as a newspaper reporter.
In 1972, Bobby showed up at the El Paso Legal Aid Office where Steve Bercu was working; Bobby was introduced to Clarence Moyers and they became law partners and began Bobby’s residence in El Paso. In 1975, Steve and Bobby formed a new partnership based on the concept that each of them would have at least three months of travel every year. But, by 1977, they found this was not adequate, so Ken Powell was recruited to join the practice and, a month after he joined the practice, Bobby and Steve left for a year’s travel in India, Pakistan and Burma and Afghanistan. After Steve was medevacked out of Afghanistan, Bobby continued overland alone to Europe, and both returned to the practice in 1978. In 1980, the partnership became Perel and Powell when Steve moved to Austin, but the three-month travel concept continued, and Bobby explored China, Tibet, Kilimanjaro, South America, and Indonesia and revisited India.
On his 59th birthday, his marriage to Judge Linda Yee Chew was officially recorded, and while the three months of travel concept was rescinded, he and Linda continued his world explorations albeit on a more limited basis that often included his nephew, Wellington M. Chew, on visits to Kashgar, Vietnam, Laos, Chile and the Easter Islands.
Between his travels, he practiced law in West Texas for more than 50-years, representing indigents, the infamous, and the famous with equal zeal and integrity with legal legends. His practice was general and varied but he tried many high-profile criminal cases often with his “fourth partner,” one-time roommate and compadre of more than 40-years, Dolph Quijano.
He defended two notable capital murder, death penalty cases. The State vs James Wyle was tried in Van Horn, Texas where every resident knew the facts of the case and the defendant was quickly found guilty and given the death penalty. Bobby’s car was found by some of those residents and his “Liberty’s last champion, your criminal defense lawyer” bumper sticker was ripped off and sugar was poured in his gas tank. Undeterred, the case was appealed, reversed and after six-years of hard work, the case was tried in El Paso and the defendant received life. Another case was the “Cadillac Bar killing” where after months long jury selection and trial, the defendant was found “Not Guilty. “ It is the only capital murder death penalty case in El Paso County where the jury acquitted the defendant.
He was admitted to practice in Texas, to the U.S. Supreme Court and the 5th and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeal and U.S. District Courts for the Western, Northern and Southern Districts.
He was a rapacious reader. Not surprisingly, he was a close friend and confidant of Cormac McCarthy, with whom he has had a long relationship and friendship and with whom he made several rafting trips, and with Cormac’s brother, Dennis, he made a walking trek through the Serengeti in Africa (2015) and visited the Antarctica on a Russian icebreaker to visit the grave of his greatest hero – Sir Ernest Shackleton (2017).
He was one of “a small group of leaders [that] have taken a step large in importance. It is called Alternative House.” Bobby was one of those “leaders” as one of the founders of the Alternative House, Inc. established in 1972.
He was editorially described as “a man who marches to the beat of his own drum.” Steve Bercu said, “His take on life has always been a little odd and definitely his own. That is what everyone loves about him.” Dolph Quijano remembers Bobby thusly: “There was a time many in the legal community looked down with some disdain at lawyers who represented individuals charged with drug cases. Bobby did those cases no matter the obstacles. He epitomized the very best values lawyers should strive to follow in the practice of law. He was honest, ethical and cared for the well-being of his clients always doing so with honor, courage and a deeply held commitment to the United States Constitution.”
No flowers please. Memorial contributions may be made to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center or charity of your choice.
Those who cannot attend in person may join the funeral and memorial services virtually on Face book Live at https://www.facebook.com/sunsetfuneralhome (no account is needed). Services entrusted to Sunset Funeral Home-West, 480 N. Resler.