Friday, June 25, 2010
Uncle Jerry: Still Special in Uncle Heaven
Jerry W Hoffman
December 27, 1927 – March 5, 2010
Uncle Jerry was "All Uncle". He ran out of energy finally this year and went to Uncle Heaven. What memories he leaves behind.
First was the classic Liberty EUB wedding to Aunt Joy in December 1949. My brother Mike and I were ring bearers, wearing suits our mom made from scratch. As a three year old, it became the earliest memory remaining in my 64 year old brain. I was married in the same church twenty years later.
Jerry had an awesome convertible car and a catcher's mitt that he used to teach me to be a baseball catcher. I remember catching ball after ball that he threw to me in our side yard, as we broke in the mitt which he eventually gave to me. I was a catcher from 6th grade until finishing high school. I owned catcher's mitts from then til now, sometimes for reasons I couldn't understand, but now I realize that the unique shaped glove is a reminder of the time I spent with Uncle Jerry and a message of persistence and sturdiness.
He and Aunt Joy lived in Greenville for a while, then built a house next door to Grandma and Grandpa Jonas, one yard away from us. He was at all the neighborhood parties (usually receiving gag gifts at the Christmas "Back Street" party) and card games at the family reunion with the Jonas clan (real poker with a ten cent limit on bets and a three bump limit). He was on the committee to pick up beer for Grandpa Art Jonas (it came in bottles by the case back then and the brand depended on which one sponsored his in season sports team and whether he was watching them on TV or listening to radio. Grandpa Jonas had intense brand loyalty).
Grandma (Mary) Jonas often volunteered Jerry (along with my dad, "Scud", and my brother and I) to work at the church for ice cream social set-up and take down. The same for family gatherings at every major holiday which were held at the Jonas grandparent's home next door or the Clayton's (Mom's parents) across the street from our home. We have photos of every Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving back to childhood of our family gatherings. We prayed, ate and talked. There were great stories of family member adventures.
A special aspect of Thanksgiving morning was going hunting with Uncle Jerry and Dad. Mike and I helped to scare rabbits and pheasants out of the bushes for Jerry and Dad to shoot with 12 gauge shotguns. We anxiously looked forward to age 13 when we could carry a shotgun and hunt "like a man". Jerry taught us gun safety and hunting etiquette before our hunting inaugural, Mike first, then me two years later. When I could finally hunt for real, I killed a rabbit that was half destroyed by the blast and inedible. I conquered hunting with that rabbit and never went hunting again. I just wasn't a very good hunter. The thrill left me. But I learned a lot from Jerry. He showed Mike and I how to clean a rabbit and a pheasant. He knew a lot about a lot.
He also was the one who taught us to take the feathers off a chicken. For large family gatherings, he took a few live chickens from the pen and hung them upside down on the clothesline and quickly beheaded them. Mike and I used to marvel at how they flopped around with no heads. We were blessed with a chicken foot to play with and learn about pulling tendons to flex chicken toes. These young boy experiences around Uncle Jerry in Liberty were special. (Now that Kroger's does all the work for us, we don't have to apply the chicken killing skills anywhere.)
Jerry played on the church softball team and bowled on the Liberty team in Miamisburg. He went fishing in Canada with both my grandpa's, Dad and Clarence Walters, a neighbor. I always liked the photo of Jerry in baseball cap, with cigarette dangling from his mouth holding one end of a long string of fish, the other end of which was held up by my Grandpa (Bill) Clayton on a fishing trip at Thunder Bay (or Rice Lake?).
Uncle Jerry liked to tease Mike and I, and later, he teased our kids, each of whom he gave a nickname. He worked with the Explorer Scouts based out of Liberty Church. He was often the person asked to pray at the family gatherings. He had many useful talents and applied them wherever he went.
He was an excellent golfer who could hit the ball a mile (he was over six feet tall and had played football at Miami University in Oxford). The man was quite an athlete. In my adult years, I remember a lot of golf outings in which Mike and I were paired against Dad and Uncle Jerry. We had a small bet of one type or another on the outcome. One day in the 1990's, Mike and I were up a stroke or two when we readied to tee off on the tenth hole at the Granville Golf Course when a bee flew into my mouth and stung me. By that time, I was a family doctor and knew too much about what could happen with unusual bee stings. Jerry was obviously not worried a bit as he commented, "I suppose you're going to try to get us to give you a stroke off your score by getting that bee to sting you?" Laughter is a good antidote for bee sting.
Jerry and Joy moved away to Greenville again as jobs changed, or territories for his sales career. Every Christmas, then the whole Liberty Jonas crew traveled to Joy and Jerry's to visit and share and eat. By then, they had Jeff, Jenny and Joe to expand their family and our cousin supply. We played some golf in Greeneville at the country club where Jerry and Joy belonged and socialized. Later they moved a couple more times, finally settling in Hilliard, just west of Columbus. Jerry continued to be a special person as their children grew up and grandchildren arrived from Jenny and Joe. I assume he was as special as a grandpa as he was in the role of uncle. He and Aunt Joy formed a special partnership that could inspire people to energize and to celebrate life. They weathered some tough storms together, including the illness and death of son Jeff, while continuing to serve and help others. Retirement included winters in Florida and more friends for Joy and Jerry, and more golf. Finally, illness called him home to God, after a few years of doctors and decline.
Uncle Jerry was his usual self the last time Mike and I visited he and Joy in Hilliard, to commemorate his 82nd birthday and, more importantly, their 60th wedding anniversary. We got a photo of the four of us who had been in the memorable 1949 Liberty Wedding: Joy and Jerry, Mike and Pat, we had changed a bit in years and wisdom, but the love and caring felt the same. The word uncle was invented to go in front of the name Jerry. We were blessed by God to have had the opportunity to learn from my Uncle Jerry. Uncle Heaven is now strengthened by his special set of uncle skills. Thanks Uncle Jerry.