Tehachapi was shocked and saddened this week to learn of the death of Ida Perkins, longtime president and chief executive officer of the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce.

Perkins died Nov. 4. She turned 63 in August, according to her husband, Richard (Rick) Perkins of Bakersfield. He said she had been dealing with health issues for about 18 months.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for her to get medical attention, although eventually she found a specialist and knew that surgery was in her future. But on Oct. 15 she had to go to an emergency room in Bakersfield. The next day she had emergency surgery and seemed to be improving. Her husband was unable to visit her, though, because of the hospital's COVID-19 concerns. They kept in touch by telephone, but she took a turn for the worse, he said. He wasn't able to see her again until shortly before her death.

Despite her illness, determination kept Perkins active. She was busy right up to her hospital admission promoting the carnival that had to be postponed this year.

Her organizational skills and enthusiasm fueled the chamber. Each year began with organizing the annual installation dinner and awards program. Then her attention turned to the Tehachapi Mountain Festival and carnival, an important fundraiser. The year wrapped up with the Tehachapi Christmas Parade. In between were countless ribbon-cuttings, networking luncheons and other events, all aimed at promoting the chamber's membership — the mostly small businesses of the Greater Tehachapi area.

She was Ida Rennie when Rick Perkins met her through the website match.com. She was working for the chamber as an administrative assistant.

"I saw this little blond cowgirl, read her profile and reached out," he recalls. "From the beginning, we were able to answer each other's sentences and had a lot of the same attitudes. She was cautious in the beginning, connecting only through match.com, but one day she said, 'meet me at Kelcy's,' and the rest is history."

She called him the love of her life when they celebrated their 14th anniversary in July.

Rick Perkins said he assisted her at the Mountain Festival while they were still dating. It was the first of many chamber-related volunteer gigs for him.

"I figured I'd better know what I was getting into," he said. They married in 2007. By then she had been promoted to the chamber's top job. In all she was involved in a total of 18 Mountain Festivals, Rick Perkins said.

"Everyone loved her," he said. "And she fell in love with the community. She loved to help the chamber members and the community."

Assemblyman Vince Fong took to Facebook Saturday afternoon to share his grief over the news of Ida Perkins' death.

"I have no words to describe the loss of my dear friend," he wrote. "For over almost 20 years, almost every visit I made to Tehachapi included a visit or a conversation with Ida. I will miss my drop-in visits and all our conversations."

Linda Parker of Bakersfield, a public and governmental affairs consultant, was on the board of the Chamber when Perkins was hired to lead the organization in 2005.

"She gave her heart to Tehachapi," Parker said in a brief interview Monday. Earlier, she reacted to the news Fong shared on Facebook. "I have been in tears all afternoon. She truly was a tremendous friend and colleague. This is such horrible news."

Paul Kaminski, president of the Rotary Club of Tehachapi, shared the sad news of Ida Perkins' death with club members by email, noting that she was a Rotarian.

"She will definitely be missed by our community for the incredible support she gave our city," he said.

Kaminski also recalled his interaction with Perkins while he was interim superintendent of Tehachapi Unified School District.

"Ida always seemed to have a smile on her face and a consistent energy about her that said, 'Git 'er done,'" he said. "My best memory was when I was interim superintendent and we met with Kirk Gilbert, director of maintenance, operations, and transportation to go over preparations for the carnival location at Wells Education Center for the 2018 Mountain Festival. Ida was so on it, prepared and able to answer any question Kirk or I had, willing to make accommodations for concerns that we had.

"Ida was a gift to the city of Tehachapi," Kaminski said.

Stephanie Garcia, a past chamber chairperson, had high praise for Perkins.

"Ida was a great friend and a true ambassador for our community. She worked hard for the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce, Tehachapi Mountain Festival, to promote and help our business community and the Tehachapi community as a whole. Her passing is a tragic loss for so many and she will be missed."

Tina Larson of Alert Disaster Restoration called her a pillar of the community.

"I was her longest-running ambassador," Larson said. She worked closely with Perkins in that role for 10 years but also regarded her as one of her closest friends.

"I will miss most the luncheons and girl talk," she said. "Of everyone I've known in Tehachapi, she cared the most about our businesses."

Young Layla Lujan and her brother, Milo, were honored as "Citizens of the Year for 2021" by the chamber and Tehachapi News. She made a comment on Perkins' Facebook page.

"Thank you for always supporting me no matter what I was doing," the teenager wrote. "I am so grateful for all the time we have spent together. I will miss you so much."

The Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council also shared condolences on Facebook.

"We will miss Ida Perkins," wrote Lydia Chaney, interim president, expressing condolences to Perkins' family on behalf of the organization. "We lost Ida this week. She was a huge part of the Tehachapi community and she will be missed."

Dozens of others shared condolences and memories on her Facebook page, as well.

"A reminder on life's brevity," wrote Mary Beth Garrison. "It seems but a year ago when we first met, yet it's been more than a dozen. God's comfort to her family and quiet peace for their hearts. No more pain, no more pills, no more surgeries... you know she's smiling now. Rest In Peace, Ida!"

Perkins had a cheerful, positive approach to everyone who came her way. On her Facebook page, in late July, she shared a thought: "Life is short, don't take one day for granted, everything can change in a moment. Be grateful for all that you have and all that you are. Remember who is most important to you and always cherish them. Life is a gift, we are truly blessed."

Rick Perkins said his wife’s remains will be interred at a cemetery in Tehachapi.

"The hospital chaplain and I gave her a service before she passed," he said. It is possible that a celebration of life in Tehachapi will be scheduled at a later date.

Ida Perkins grew up in Manteca. In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons Matthew Rennie and Christopher Rennie and three grandchildren.

Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: claudia@claudiaelliott.net.