The Joy of Jerry

13 Apr

Silly Uncle Jerry…as soon as my daughter could string three words together, this became her name for my sister’s husband. Silly Uncle Jerry could make her laugh by just entering the room. She anticipated that he would do something silly.

His booming baritone voice would vibrate through the room. Singing songs from Broadway shows, quoting lines from old movies, making references to obscure topics…that was Silly Uncle Jerry’s usual behavior. He used his wonderful voice for years volunteering to read books for the blind on a local New York radio station.

When he read books to the children they were entranced by the different voices he used. One time when they were stranded in an airport for hours, my brother-in-law pulled out a bunch of books to read to his own children, soon he had an audience of dozens of children and parents also stranded. He just kept reading.

Jerry in a calm Hawaiian shirt. Jerry in a calm Hawaiian shirt.

Jerry’s bright Hawaiian shirts echoed his bright and cheerful inside spirit. He had dozens of designs and colors to wear for any occasion. There really was no time that he was not comfortable in a Hawaiian shirt. (Okay, he did wear a suit to his wedding and all the bar/bat mitzvot.)

It was Silly Uncle Jerry who sat on the floor with my daughter and took a corner of her blankie and held it the way she did. It was Silly Uncle Jerry who called her Larabee, and would say, in the tone of a Maxwell Smart character, “Larabee….Get me the Chief!”

As more children arrived, including two of Silly Uncle Jerry and my sister, he became the ringleader for fun and excitement.   Raining in the Catskills with nothing to do? Wait, let’s put on swimsuits and run around in the rain. Wait, that is not enough, let’s play follow the leader in the rain.   Four little children under the age of eight running around in the rain with a giant bear of an Uncle having a great time!


Jerry and the children in Follow the leader. Jerry and the children in Follow the leader.

But then the leader, one of the little boys, decided he had to go potty….so he ran over to the woods, pulled down his suit and pees….and the other two did the same thing.   My daughter ran away and screamed as she came up to the porch and into the house. Silly Uncle Jerry fell to the ground laughing hysterically. It was perfect. But he got up and set a new follow the leader rule…”No Urinating when being the leader!” My daughter went back outside.

Jumping for joy in the rain. Jumping for joy in the rain.

It was Silly Uncle Jerry’s love of comic books that made him send comic books to my children for their birthdays. I wonder if he knew that reading comic books is what got his nephew to finally read. Eventually my son read manga and then regular books. Now he is studying computer animation. All this started with an uncle’s love of comic books.

When my daughter decided to go to New Jersey for college at Drew University, I knew she would be safe as my siblings and parents all lived no more than an hour away.

When she and a friend got stuck without a ride, after a program away from the university, in a horrible rain storm — the busses and trains stopped running — it was Silly Uncle Jerry to the rescue. He picked them up, drove them back to school and then home, skirting flooded and closed roads and spending hours to help. In the meantime, my sister was at home dealing with a flooded basement.

It was Jerry who could lighten up the spirit of a room, when people were feeling blue. He could make his eyes bulge out and run through a Marx Brothers’ or Laurel and Hardy routine.

Silly Uncle Jerry was not just family funny, he was a professionally funny man. Part of an improv comedy troupe, the Lunatic Fringe, he was perfect because of his quick thinking and tremendous sense of humor. Every once in a while Uncle Jerry and his comedy group would perform in Madison, NJ, area. My daughter would meet up with my sister, have dinner with them and then go to the show. She tried to see as many performances that Silly Uncle Jerry was in that she possibly could. He was in shows all around the New Jersey and New York City area, appearing in regional theater, like the Garage Theater, and off Broadway.

That was they way Silly Uncle Jerry lived. He was a big bear of a man, with a heart as big. He would do anything for his children and his nieces and nephews. His family and friends made his life complete. Most of all he loved to make life fun for his wife and children and sisters.

But it was he who left us way too young. And left a hole in the fabric of the joy of the world. April 18, he would have been 54.

We miss him.

But the joy of Jerry stayed with those who will always love him and the memory of him. Whenever I see someone in a Hawaiian shirt, I think of Jerry. And, in his memory, we — his family and friends — wear brightly colored Hawaiian shirts on his birthday to keep him with us on that day! And for a few hours he is here with us.

Lunatic Fringe:

Garage Theater:

4 Responses to “The Joy of Jerry”

  1. Joohi chaudry April 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Ellen , loved this so much . Everyone should be so lucky as to have a silly uncle Jerry.

    • zicharon April 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

      Thank Joohi. Jerry was a special person with a large personality. We miss him.

  2. Amy April 18, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    I must have missed this one (or perhaps it was before I was following your blog). What a wonderful man he must have been. And how terrible for him to have died so young.

    • zicharon April 18, 2018 at 8:30 am #

      He was a special person. We all miss him. I wrote it five years ago. It was one of my first blogs.

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