I met “Dad” (and I only knew Jerry as “Dad” until yesterday when I attended his funeral) when his oldest granddaughter was on the high school softball team I help coach. Meeting the two sisters and working with them over the course of 6 years on the softball field and, occasionally, a few other places around the high school campus, inspired many conversations with their parents about parenting and teaching kids priorities. I have enjoyed watching these fine young ladies go on to bigger and better things and seeing the hard work and preparation they always put into their successes. I have seen them grow from little girls to young women. I have seen their scholastic and athletic success. I have seen how they prioritize and organize their time. I have seen how they have mentored others. My daughter has taken a special interest in the younger sister and has chosen to follow her as a catcher on her softball team. This has been met with a kindness and an interest rarely exhibited by high school students towards 2nd graders. In my daughter’s case, she has been blessed by, not one, but two such mentors (friend, pitcher, teammate of the other). I continue to be impressed as these young ladies juggle the myriad of activities beset upon young people in the high-pressure worlds of competitive sports and major universities. These sisters chose the same university. I know many who would have purposely chosen differently.
Reflecting on Jerry’s life, of which I know so little, I see some key points that seemed to make all the difference for many. First, he gave his children a firm foundation built on faith in God and trust in family. He used a common language (in this case softball) so he could continue to communicate with them, as they got older. Second, he taught them to prioritize and work hard for success, but that all the success they could achieve is not as important as faith and family and the values and morals that go with them. Third, he expanded his influence, reaching out beyond his family to provide the same for countless others. Finally, he continued to be a strong presence in the lives of all those he had influenced and, by so doing, he taught them to continue what he had started. And they do.
Truth be told, I didn’t know Jerry very well, but I know who and what he was, because I have know many of those he loves. Jerry may have “put it in the book” but the game goes on and his legacy continues.