Ex-Bear William 'The Fridge' Perry at center of family feud

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It’s the 30th anniversary of one of the most beloved teams in Chicago sports history, the Super Bowl champion Bears.

Players from that team have been celebrating, but one of its brightest stars has been missing: William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

Now, FOX 32 has learned that Perry is at the center of a family feud regarding his health and hard times.

He was a force of nature: A 325 pound defensive tackle who could also score touchdowns.

He was a star not just in Chicago, but across the country. But the smile that charmed millions has faded away, and now some of his family worry the fridge is in trouble.

FOX 32: Why did you call us?

"I'm actually reaching out for help," Willie Perry said.

FOX 32: For your brother?

"For my brother," he said.

Willie Perry is William Perry’s older brother.

"William needs help because when you're sick, a lot of times you don't know you need help," Willie said.

Fox talked outside William Perry’s former home in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina, which is a house that could serve as a metaphor for Perry’s fortunes.

Seized by the county for failure to pay taxes, the house is now empty.

"See, somebody's broken in already," Willie said.

The inside is crumbling from neglect, and the only sign of its former owner is a handful of photos scattered on the floor.

"This is him when he was sick," Willie said.

In 2008, Perry contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome, an illness of the nervous system that can cause paralysis. His weight dropped to 190 pounds.

A judge gave legal guardianship of Perry to another brother, Michael Dean Perry, who also played in the NFL.

Now, seven years later, the Fridge's son, William Perry II, wonders why his uncle still has legal control over his father's life.

"It's a bad situation. But hopefully we can get guardianship over him and go forward, and get him removed so he can do the right thing and be independent," William II said.

Family members in Aiken, South Carolina say they're also in the dark about where the Fridge is getting his money, and just how much is left.

At one time, Perry made millions in commercial endorsements and salary. That appears to be gone.

At age 52, Perry now lives in a townhome in an assisted living community.

Family members provided FOX 32 with pictures and videos of Perry. They say his weight has ballooned to 400 pounds again, and he's barely able to walk because of lesions on his feet.
Perry refused to talk to FOX 32 when we knocked on the door, but we did see a number of people coming and going.

Willie Perry and William II say the Fridge has surrounded himself with people who supply him with alcohol, which he shouldn't be drinking because of his illness.

"If the doctor tells you not to drink because of what you're going through, why would you drink?" Willie Perry said.

They blame Michael Dean Perry, his legal guardian, for not taking control of the situation.

But in an interview by phone from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michael Dean told FOX 32 that while he has provided medical help, he can't control his older brother.

"You cannot babysit a grown man... He has surrounded himself with enablers," he said.

In a recent phone interview with WBBM Radio, the Fridge said everything is fine.

"When they see you they say he's fine, he's okay. Everything's fine. So for me, everything is A-OK and I'm doing great," The Fridge said.

Michael Dean says he tried to give up legal guardianship of his brother, but doctors won't sign off on it.

As for the family feud, Michael Dean said that "they really want to control the money. Nobody was concerned about it when he was dead broke."

FOX 32: Is this about money?

"No, I could care less about money.My biggest thing is to get him healthy like he was, one hundred percent,” William II said. "You say you helped my dad, didn't do it. Don't just talk. Anybody can talk. But what I'm seeing now, I don't see where he really helped him."
Michael Dean Perry says his brother is living off a monthly social security disability check, and also gets some disability money from the NFL.

You may remember hearing a couple months ago that William Perry's Super Bowl ring from the Bears was auctioned off for more than $200,000. But his brother says the Fridge didn't get a penny of that because it was auctioned by the man he had already sold it to several years ago.