Perry Ketchum, a civic and business activist

  • Article by: Ben Cohen
  • Star Tribune
  • November 23, 2007 - 7:48 PM

Perry Ketchum's volunteer service with the Peace Corps provided direction for the rest of his life, prompting years of activism in business and civic affairs.

Ketchum, who founded and led a business strategy, communications and marketing firm, died of cancer on Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. He was 61.

Ketchum served as a Peace Corps volunteer in northeastern Iran in the late 1960s, an experience that ignited his lifelong interest in the Middle East, public affairs and politics.

In 1985, he moved to the Twin Cities. He and his wife, Helen Metz of Minneapolis, are the principals of the firm, Ketchum Metz Inc. of Minneapolis.

The firm counts start-up businesses and Fortune 500 corporations among its clients.

He helped lead several nonprofit organizations, including Children's HeartLink, the University of Minnesota's University College advisory board, the Playwrights' Center, Actors' Theatre of St. Paul and the Minnesota International Center.

Penny George, president of the George Family Foundation, said that Ketchum was always ready to volunteer his business-planning expertise for charitable groups.

"Anything Perry gets involved in, you know it's well run, and it's worthwhile," George said.

"His incredible intelligence and his strategic capacity to see how things could be done better led him to higher-level consulting and community involvement."

Emily Anne Tuttle, a former Minnesota state senator and leader of the Minnesota International Center, said he was especially helpful when Middle Eastern dignitaries visited Minnesota.

"He was a globalist," Tuttle said. "He was definitely a supporter of peaceful solutions to global problems."

Marcia Appel of Lakeville, a former client and business colleague, said he excelled at calming people during a crisis.

"He brought ethics, sensibility and clear spoken-ness in a work world where they are in rare supply sometimes," she said.

Before he moved to Minneapolis, he held positions with the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York and Washington, and the Financial Times of London in Washington. He once directed a global communications project for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington.

Ketchum even spent time improving the lives of dogs in Loring Park, helping lead the effort to build a dog park.

He was often seen with one of his best friends, Ludwig Von Beethoven, a standard poodle.

Before joining the Peace Corps, he earned a bachelor's degree at New York's Columbia University and a master's degree in communications and journalism from the University of Minnesota.

At the time of his death, Ketchum, a Bronx, N.Y., native, was writing a book based on the lives of a number of his ancestors in Duluth. He also played the piano.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Helen.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Dec. 14 at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, 519 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis.

Ben Cohen •

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