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Paul Joseph Perrault

Hall of Fame Class of 1971

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Through hard work and concentration Joe Perrault became America’s most stylish power jumper.

Paul Joseph Perrault, known to everyone as Joe, was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin on December 3, 1924. He later moved to Ishpeming, Michigan and began skiing at a very young age. Joe was a perfectionist and realized early that the Europeans, particularly the Finns and Norwegians, were the most competent of the wolrd’s ski jumpers. He saw that they could not only jump great distances but that they did so with great grace and style. Joe’s goal became being able to leap great distances with the style of the Europeans.

Joe joined the military during World War II as did most skiers of his day. He joined the 10th Mountain Division, going to Camp Hale, Colorado for Ski Troop training in skiing and mountaineering, later serving with the 10th Mountain Division in the Po Valley in Italy. During the action in Italy Joe was awarded the Silver Star for carrying his wounded sergeant to safety under fire in the heat of battle.

Joe resumed his jumping career after his discharge from the army and return from Europe. He skied once again for the Ishpeming Ski Club (his home town club) and he won several tournaments, setting hill records as well as the North American distance record.

Joe was a member of the Olympic teams of 1948 and 1952, competing for the United States in 1948 but bad luck prevailed in 1952. After winning the Olympic tryouts, Joe suffered from one of his infrequent injuries, a badly sprained back, and he was unable to compete in the 1952 Olympics.

His greatest day in skiing, and one of the first triumphs for American ski jumping, took place on Saturday, February 26, 1949 at giant Pine Mountain Ski Hill in Iron Mountain, Michigan. A fine field of European and American jumpers had gathered there hoping to see the North American distance record come back to Iron Mountain’s Pine Mountain. It had been taken just three weeks earlier by a fine Norwegian jumper, Szerre Kongsgaard, at Hyak, Washington. Some 20,000 spectators watched anxiously as these fine European and American ski jumpers stood by for the assault on the record. Along with Joe, Americans Art Devlin, Walter Bietila, Ralph Bietila, Eugene Wilson and the 1948 Olympic Champion, Petter Hugsted from Norway as well as Matti Pietikianen and Leo Laakso, Olympic team members from Finland, were on hand to give it their all. Everyone at the meet felt that a fourth place finish was the best the Americans could hope for.

However, all others fell short that day, leaving Paul Joe Perrault to take the North American record away from Pietikianen. As Joe sprung from the takeoff, 20,000 fans watched in awe as he sailed, seemingly forever, toward the bottom of the hill. When he landed, everyone knew that the North American distance record was back at Pine Mountain and in the hands of an American, Joe Perrault. It took a while for the announcement to come but it was finally announced as 297 feet, a new North American distance record, just three feet short of the elusive 300 foot barrier. This was one of the most exciting days in American ski jumping history.

This honor could not have happened to a more deserving person than Joe Perrault. Despite his “devil may care” attitude on the jumping hills of Europe and America, Joe has both feet planted firmly on the ground in the real world. Joe also organized the Ishpeming Junior Ski Club in 1946 at the old Ishpeming Ski Club house. Two of the junior skiers then were Rudy Maki and Dr. Jack Bietila. There were about 35 junior skiers in the club at the time.

After the February 28, 1949 feat, the people of his hometown, Ishpeming, honored him with a “Joe Perrault Day”. There were many speeches and good food was in abundance. A quote by a friend of Joe’s said it all: “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” Paul J. Perrault was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1971.

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