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Epilogue | Gerald Old

Family uses one key phrase and many loving images to honor Gerald Old

CLEARWATER — They sat around the kitchen table writing his obituary.

"What should we say?" asked his wife, Sherry Old.

His adult son and daughter shook their heads.

It was hard to reduce to a few sentences the simple but spirited life of Gerald Old. He'd worked construction in Clearwater. He installed ATMs and remodeled banks around Florida. He loved Star Trek.

They read a few other obituaries out loud. None felt like Jerry.

All week, they'd been digging out videos and photographs for a celebration at the home he'd lived in for 40-plus years.

There was Jerry as a high school student in Chicago, toothy and geeky, but smiling. There he was on his first date with Sherry in Clearwater, after he'd shaved his beard for her because he knew she didn't care for it.

A few years later, before they were married, the couple sat in folding chairs in front of the garage, she with a broken tailbone and a poodle on her lap, he with a beer in his hand leaning in for a kiss.

They found photos of him digging up the back yard with a backhoe — to fix the septic system and repave around the pool. Putting on a new roof after he expanded the house from a two-bedroom to a four-bedroom. Showing his son, Shawn, how to use a belt sander on the dining room table. Hugging his daughter, Jayme, close. They're both wearing sunglasses.

There he was stroking Jayme's head after she'd spent 24 hours in labor and had a C-section. Asked how he felt about his new grandson, Zackary, Jerry gave a hearty "HEHEHEHE" laugh and said, "Killer."

Later, he's spooning carrots from a baby food jar into Zackary's mouth. Helping the little boy rip the wrapping paper off a helicopter at Christmas and a fishing pole on his birthday. Teaching him how to hold a red marker and color a boat. "Let's make a happy face," Jerry says in a video. Grandpa and grandson hold the marker together.

So many pictures of him hanging in the pool with the grandkids, tossing them off his shoulders, sucking on popsicles, playing badminton and remote-controlled boats. Rolling a rubber ball up the slide to Zackary, back and forth, over and over.

Pointing out the white blooms on his plumeria, towel around his waist, hair a little grayer.

Standing next to his wife with the help of a cane. She is holding the bouquet of red, yellow and white roses he has given her for a wedding anniversary. They were married 40 years.

Holding himself up in front of his white work van with a walker, his hand on the hood, a wistful smile on his face. That was the day they washed it, so he could sell it. He couldn't drive anymore.

Sitting in a wheelchair in front of the cows at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse, joking about tipping over the cows.

Diabetes left him with little feeling in his legs. Then he had gallbladder surgery and complications.

The last picture they took of him was in a rehab facility the day before Valentine's Day. He was sitting in a hospital bed holding a "Be My Valentine" balloon.

The next day, he asked his daughter to get his wife flowers and a card. He wasn't strong enough to sign his usual "Love Always, Jerry." Instead for the first time ever, he jotted down "Gerald" and handed the daisies and mums to Sherry. An hour later, he had a heart attack and died. He was 68.

How to put all that into an obituary?

Son Shawn thought for a moment about his dad — about his fulfilling life, his love of Star Trek, how devoted he was to his family.

He wrote a sentence.

"I've had a hell of a lot of fun with my family and friends and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Beam me up, Scotty!"

>>Biography

Gerald 'Jerry' Old

Born: May 31, 1942.

Died: Feb. 14, 2011.

Survivors: Wife Sherry Old; son Shawn Old; daughter Jayme Old; grandchildren Zackary, Kendall, Kennedy; brothers Rick Old and Carl Old.

Family uses one key phrase and many loving images to honor Gerald Old 03/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 7:52am]
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