A year has passed since Jerry’s unexpected death from heart failure. We feel his loss deeply and remember him with love and respect. Jerry believed morality was based on one’s actions and lived his life accordingly. He rarely acted or spoke impulsively. Which is not to say he wasn’t spontaneous, he certainly was especially when being playful or dancing, both of which he was quite good at. Rather, that he was naturally thoughtful in his personal interactions. This quality, his commitment to being of service to others, and his modesty about his own attributes reflects his family’s Quaker and Methodist background. He attached himself to no particular religious dogma; he lived what he believed was a moral life.
Jerry had an enviable beginning in this world, spending the first ten years of his life running through Scotch broom mazes, adventuring out on the South Jetty, and playing in the old Battery at Fort Stevens. He always retained this capacity for simple childlike joy and play. The family moved ‘east’ to The Dalles with his father’s job at the Corps of Engineers, Jerry lived most of the remainder of his life in the mid- Columbia from The Dalles, to Friend, to White Salmon; with sojourns in the mid-West for graduate school and in Southern British Columbia to be closer to his wife’s family. The couple moved back to the mid- Columbia in December of 2017, and Jerry was immeasurably happy to be home again.
Jerry’s formal education was solid and a bit eclectic. After Joseph G. Wilson, Whitaker Junior High, and The Dalles High schools, he went on to 4 years in the Architecture department at the University of Oregon, a BA in Psychology from the U of O, and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Missouri. He rounded this out with a lifetime of readings in philosophy, ethics, geopolitics, and…detective novels.
His professional career spanned almost 4 decades. He was a childcare worker then Assistant Director of a residential care facility in Mendocino County where in 1967 he had met, courted, and began a lifelong partnership with his wife Nancy Fath. Then after graduate school he returned to The Dalles and worked 3 years for Children Services and over 20 years as Director of the Community Attention Home. He was well respected amongst his peers as a skilled, reliable, compassionate social worker and boss.
The more physically active side of his life included: playing basketball long after the teens at the Attention Home started calling him Grandpa, a few years as a dedicated runner, dancing, and back country skiing. He and Nancy made a dozen trips up Mt. Adams hauling skis to the top and telemarking down, and easily a hundred trips up Tilly Jane trail to the top of Cooper Spur. They skied all over the northeast and south sides of Mount Hood, tromped up and skied down various other Northwest Mountains and the Buttes and clear cuts near Friend, Oregon. They sought out powder on the diamond runs at Anthony Lakes, Mt. Bachelor, Targhee in the Tetons of Idaho, Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows, and Schweitzer Basin near Spokane. There was also a lot of fishing done in the lakes, streams and oceans of Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
Gardening was a passion begun in Jerry’s teen years after a summer visit to help his Grandma with some house painting. He introduced her to rare steak, and she introduced him to her vegetable garden. He remembered that time in her garden as some of the happiest moments in his life, and so being a practical man decided to repeat that happiness every year. His last garden kept the neighborhood well supplied all summer and fed a Garden Party of 60 family, friends and neighbors who gathered to commemorate his life.
From his father and Grandfather’s carpentry skills, and his own study of architecture, grew a love of design, fine buildings, and the simple maintenance of a well-built house. He used to declare he’d like to die with a hammer in his hand and he came literally close to that. His last day was spent with a paintbrush doing the trim on his house in White Salmon.
And so, with great affection we bid adieu to this very ordinary extraordinary man. The world needs, and thankfully has, many common people with the same respect and love for people and the greater World we are a part of.
Jerry was predeceased by his parents and sister Kay McKay Grotjohn. Surviving family include wife Nancy, brother John McKay and his wife Glyneth Sakahara, Brother in law Russ Grotjohn, numerous cousins, dear nieces Karla Geiger and Colleen Grotjohn, Colleen’s partner Shell, Great Niece Jackie Geiger MacDonald, her husband Stephen, and their son Great Great Nephew Lucas. Jerry was delighted with this last addition to the clan!
Jerry's many long time friends and Fath-in-laws were dear to him as well.