Don’t look now. But that striking man with the smiling eyes ringing up your groceries used to be known as “Flash.”
He was a pro boxer who earned his moniker from the flashy velour robes and trunks he wore.
Today Flash is more commonly known as George Perez.
More often than not at Safeway on 41st Street in Everett, you can hear Perez’s voice from behind the cash register calling out a happy cheer to a customer or joshing with a kid in a cart seat.
Though Perez doesn’t get bounced around a boxing ring anymore, he’s still ricocheting from one activity to the next in a life that’s certainly been worth living.
“It’s been pretty good,” Perez, 64, said. “I’ve had an exciting life.”
Part of that excitement and passion has been built around sports. It’s been a part of his life since his youth, and now Perez keeps that passion aflame by following the Everett Silvertips hockey team.
Perez was a fan of the Tips even before they got their name. He was a proponent of building Comcast Arena in downtown Everett in 2003, and applied for and got a job as an arena usher “to be more a part of it.”
“I just think local sports are amazing,” Perez said. “And the Tips just brought me so much excitement. It’s really neat.”
Of course, Perez has to juggle being an usher with his full-time job at Safeway, but he says his employer has been flexible enough to let Perez take in as many events as he can, from Tips games to the circus.
“I could do five or six events a week,” Perez said. “Again, I like it so much, I don’t care. It’s fun.”
For Perez, that’s perfect, because both jobs put him around people and give him an opportunity to play up to a crowd.
“I’m a big ham, admittedly,” said Perez, who is in his 12th year at Safeway. “I love the company I work with, and again, I’m a ham, and I love the people that come through. I meet a great amount of neat customers.”
Holding two jobs works for Perez’s wife, Georgia, as well because that gets him out of the house, Perez joked.
But with all that’s on his plate, it’s hard to believe Perez is much of a homebody.
For instance, ushering gives Perez “mad money” to help pay for the salmon fishing he does two or three times a year on the Stillaguamish and Snohomish rivers.
Perez has been an active member of his church the past 30 years and has participated in 11 mission trips so far.
Perez is also a commissioner with the Everett Housing Authority. He attends meetings at least once a month and travels to conferences and such to support the authority’s mission to provide affordable living to low-income families.
Perez is in his ninth year as a commissioner.
“I’m a projects boy so it does have some rewards related along those issues and I’ve enjoyed that,” Perez said.
And Perez works out at the YMCA, starting at 6:30 most mornings.
“I don’t want to be a fat husband or fat grandpa,” Perez joked. “And all my life I’ve been involved in sports.”
Perez was an amateur boxer in the Golden Gloves, and, in 1972, he turned pro, fighting for five or six years.
They called Perez “Flash,” he believes because of the colorful trunks and robes his mother-in-law made him
In boxing, Perez combined his love of sports and his natural “hammy” tendencies.
“I never intended to make any money. I never had the dreams of one day being a champion, never had those kind of aspirations. It was fun. I liked it. It kept me in shape.”
Perez caught a bad streak, however, and is today a recovering alcoholic, dry for 23 years.
“I’m not a health fanatic, but it’s been instilled in me since I was a kid that there’s an important part of taking care of our bodies,” Perez said.
As a young man, Perez, the second of 10 children, and his family followed the crops to make a living: In the Everett area they picked strawberries and raspberries, then went on to Othello and Moses Lake for onions and potatoes and beets, the Yakima Valley for the hop harvest and grapes and apples, then winter in Arlington.
“It was hard,” Perez said. “Young people I work with at Safeway will ask me if it’s hard for me standing up. What we used to do in the field was much harder than this and didn’t pay half as much, so I’m in heaven. This is absolutely enjoyable.”
Perez still gardens at his Everett home — “there’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty” — and he and his wife enjoy going to the sporting events of their 18 grandkids. There are also three great-grandkids.
“There are not any boxers yet, but a lot of football and basketball players,” Perez said.
Perez has a simple philosophy for staying vital.
“Be involved. Do something,” Perez said. “Don’t sit at home. Do stuff.”