‘I never stopped thinking about it’
Terrence saved Edith’s life 38 years ago, but she didn’t get to thank him until Wednesday evening,
Edith (Deedee) Beliwicz was only 3 years old when a trip to Cherry Beach took a near-deadly turn.
It was April 1977 and the toddler somehow escaped from her family picnic without anyone noticing, only to end up in the water, desperately trying to stay afloat.
Terrence Perry, then 14, was fishing at the beach with a neighbour when he spotted what looked like a doll, clad in a pink dress with white frills, floating on the surface.
He wasted no time diving in to save the unconscious girl who was blue and had “blown up like a blowfish,” but as the two surfaced, they were separated by medical crews, and didn’t see each other again.
That was until Wednesday evening, 38 years after the harrowing day, when the pair reunited over dinner in Brampton.
Anervous Beliwicz had arrived early. “He walked in and we hugged each other and we didn’t let go for a few seconds,” she told the Star. “It was beautiful.”
Beliwicz, an employee at a Woodbridge courier service, had been searching for Perry for months, but only found him recently after ap- pealing to social media when she came across a Star clipping about the incident.
The yellowed page, which was given to her by her grandmother, had a picture of Perry and his dog, Whiskey, splashed across it.
It was the first brush of attention for Perry, who went on to be lauded by North York mayor Mel Lastman and the Toronto Harbour Commission for his heroic act.
But the medals and certificates they bestowed on him are packed away somewhere unknown, Perry said.
He figures they were boxed up about 16 years ago when a brutal car crash left him in hospital for three months and battling a coma for weeks. In the wake of the accident, he moved back to his parents’ home and somehow he lost track of the mementos.
But unlike Perry’s mementos, his memories of the day have yet to disappear.
After hauling Beliwicz from the water, he remembers being checked out by medics who gave him a scruffy pair of overalls to wear and then allowed him to get back to fishing.
Though he admits, “I was so young that it wasn’t as big a deal to me as it was to others,” he said he had often wondered if Beliwicz’s family had ever explained the incident to her.
“I never stopped thinking about it,” he said.
“I figured that if she knew and cared enough, she would find me.”
Years went by and Perry had heard nothing so he was stunned when Beliwicz called him one recent evening.
“I am not a person to be speechless, but I was,” he said. “I have been on cloud nine since. It’s amazing.”
“I didn’t know how he was going to react, how I wanted him to react . . . I had a panic attack,” Beliwicz said of the courage it took for her to make the call. “When he answered, his voice was so full of joy to hear from me so everything just smoothed away and I was so happy.”
It took no convincing for Beliwicz to get Perry, now a construction worker in Acton, to meet up with her. They spent hours with their families discussing newspaper clippings and other mementos from the neardrowning, while Beliwicz explained that she has a fear of lakes, though she can swim quite well in pools.
Being rescued all those years ago, she said, has had an enormous impact on her life.
“I think I am a nicer person because of it,” she said.
“If there is someone in need, I would be there to help. Even if they were in the lake, I would jump in. As petrified as I am, I would do it.”
As for Perry, he said, “I’m not a knight in shining armour on a horse. I’m a guy who was at the right place at the right time.”
But now that he has been reunited with Perry, he said, “I think this is best friends. I hope it’s forever.”