'He just loved the kids:' Fredericton's magic man dies at 75

Fredericton magician Perley Palmer has died at the age of 75. Palmer wowed young and old alike during his decades of performing as Perley the Magician.

Perley Palmer enchanted generations of children in Fredericton and beyond

Perley the Magician always had time to entertain children, whether he was doing a show, or having supper at a restaurant. (CBC)

After decades of mesmerizing crowds and making people laugh and smile, Fredericton magician Perley Palmer has died. 

The famed entertainer, known simply as Perley the Magician, died at the age of 75 on Friday.

He was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in April 2015, but it didn't stop him from making people smile with his tricks, even in his last days.

A love of performing

Palmer started performing about 35 years ago. He would perform at birthdays, parties and was a fixture at the Fredericton Exhibition. 

His years of performing there even led Mike Vokey, the exhibition's executive director, to dedicate a tent to the magician in 2017.

Mike Vokey and the Fredericton Exhibition dedicated one of its tents to long-time performer Perley Palmer. (Submitted by Mike Vokey)

"He just has the personality, and you saw it in his eyes and you heard it in his voice," said Vokey. "Everybody loved it. They loved his sense of humour and they loved the way he performed." 

But it wasn't just a tent or stage where Palmer would perform his magic. Anytime a child would come up to him, Perley had a trick ready. 

Perley Palmer had a special place in his heart for children. (Submitted by Gary Gordon)

"I would never be too busy to do something for a child," Palmer told Information Morning in Fredericton in an interview in 2015. 

Vokey saw that first hand as he got to know Palmer at the exhibition grounds.

"He just loved the kids and they loved him," said Vokey. "I don't think anybody from anywhere we've had come in could duplicate the connection he had with the kids."

Always pulling tricks

Gary Gordon said Perley the Magician not only liked performing tricks, but he also liked playing tricks on his friends. (Submitted by Gary Godron)

As friend Gary Gordon recalls, Palmer's sleight of hand and ability to make things disappear extended past his performances. 

"He was always trying to fool me and do tricks on me and it was always funny," said Gordon. 

Gordon got to know Palmer when he delivered produce to the Tingley's Save-Easy in 1985, where Palmer worked. But the two didn't become close until a few years ago, when they realized they were neighbours. 

Palmer was made an honorary member of the Fredericton Police Force. (Submitted by Gary Gordon)

Gordon and Palmer would play pool and go on trips together, which is when Gordon became the victim of some of Palmer's pranks. 

"One of Perley's favourite things to do was to hide on me," said Gordon.

"I would be looking all around at the skyscrapers and you know the things going on in the streets and I would turn around looking for Perley and he'd be gone."

Palmer was able to entertain multiple generations over his 35 year magic career. (Submitted by Gary Gordon)

Even over the past few years, as Palmer dealt with his cancer and treatment, he still wanted to do his magic. He kept performing up until a few months ago. 

"He always wanted to get new magic tricks," said Gordon. "He always wanted to get something new to do."

Lasting memory

In 2015, Fredericton declared July 13 Perley Palmer Day. (CBC )

Because of his long career in magic, Palmer was able to touch the hearts of multiple generations. 

"People used to come and love to watch their little kids laugh at the same tricks that Perley performed when they were little," said Vokey. 

Gordon said he was always able to make people smile and that's something people don't forget.

"He just made people feel nice inside," said Gordon.

"He made the kids laugh, and be wide eyed, and the parents of course they enjoyed that, seeing their kids mesmerized by his talent."

Fredericton Magician Perley Palmer gets an entire day named after him. He talks to Terry about what that means and how he's dealing with cancer. 10:58

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.