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Luke Perry Dies at 52 and We All Realize Our Mortality

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Luke Perry was a beloved star with many of his own achievements.

Luke Perry was a beloved star with many of his own achievements.

Luke Perry: A Symbol Of The 1990s

Like his 90210 castmates, Luke Perry will forever be linked with the early 1990s, but he became so much more than just an actor for many. He was a symbol of their own teen years and deemed a "secret boyfriend" by many, thanks in no small part to his ultra-cool demeanor playing Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. People loved him as the surprising best friend to Jason Priestley's seemingly squeaky clean Brandon Walsh.

While Perry did go on to star in other works, the film version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Oz among them, he is inextricably linked with many teen years and was enjoying a career resurgence thanks to his role as Archie's dad in Riverdale. Nostalgia, anyone? Sure, Perry looked absolutely nothing like the comic version of Fred Andrews, who was generally portrayed with thinning hair and seemed overweight, but people were just glad to have him back on screen.

Now, it seems, the world is mourning⁠—or, at the very least, former teens of the 1990s⁠—now that news of Perry's death at just 52 has broken.

It seems surreal that someone so young would be felled by a massive stroke, and yet, here we are. I remember when I was about 10 years old and thinking that anyone in their 50s must have been absolutely ancient; now that I'm 46, I shudder to think that someone⁠—celebrity or otherwise⁠—just a few years older than I am would die of a stroke.

I was never a fan of Luke Perry, but like so many, I'm having a hard time reconciling someone who seemed, at least on television, to be in good health with someone who would just suddenly die of such a serious illness. His kids are just 20 and 18, approximately, and while it's devastating to lose a parent at any age, his kids have lost him at a time when they might be one day soon considering marriage or children, and now have to do so with the knowledge that their dad is no longer there to be an active part of that.

For those of us who essentially grew up with Perry on our television screens, Perry was as linked with our adolescence as the whole high school experience was. Everyone around us in the 1990s, it seemed, was watching Beverly Hills, 90210, so if you didn't have even a basic knowledge of what was going on you were lost in most conversations with your peers, who were almost certainly discussing it at length.

Perry as Dylan McKay exuded a certain gravitas onscreen in the show, too. Perhaps it was because everyone knew he was one of the older actors in the cast; I'm not sure, but when Dylan came on screen, people paid attention. It didn't hurt that Perry was an attractive human being, but he didn't seem to work hard at being an appealing character throughout the show's run.

Of course, Perry would pop up here and there in shows like Oz and in Law and Order: SVU, but it was his most recent role as Fred Andrews that introduced him to a whole new generation of fans. While he seemed to be in more of a supporting role than a main one in this case, Perry's fans from his 90210 days were excited to have him back and today's teenagers enjoyed him because he was an appealing father figure.

When news of his stroke hit around March 1, I remember sort of shrugging and thinking that he would be fine. After all, how many times have we heard stories of celebrities being on death's door and suddenly pulling through from whatever illness? It never once occurred to me that a stroke would kill a 52-year-old, even though we are cautioned about the warning signs of stroke during the Heart and Stroke Foundation's annual campaigns. Also, Perry was a celebrity; the assumption is that while he's as human as the rest of us, he can also afford health care on a level that many of us cannot. Surely that would have saved him, right?

Unfortunately, that happy ending was not to happen, and while his family mourns, the teens of the 1990s mourn one of their idols and are reminded once more of our own fragile mortality.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.