Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | "Jerry" Bouchard

Mother of 7 Jerry Bouchard's family values were taught in paradise

PALM HARBOR — Every evening at 6, Jerry Bouchard walked onto the porch of a wooden beach house and rang a brass ship's bell.

Her seven children knew what that meant. It was time to come in from the beach, shower and eat. After dinner, everyone would return to the beach and walk, picking up shells. Then they would sit on the porch and watch the sunset.

For years, the Bouchards spent summers on Little Gasparilla Island, a 7-mile strip of beach as white as a line of toothpaste.

It's where Jerry Bouchard recharged her spiritual batteries, read James Patterson novels and stood beside her children watching sea turtles hatch.

She loved when a big storm approached, when the skies darkened and the wind picked up.

"We stayed on the island in hurricanes," said Terry Bouchard, 50, Mrs. Bouchard's daughter. "The water ran under our house," she said. "Mom would say, 'Oh, this is great! Let's get in the boat!' "

Mrs. Bouchard died Thursday, of lung cancer. She was 77.

As her children reminisce in the days since her death, "Eighty percent of the memories are from the beach," her daughter said.

Jerry Burke was a teenager when her father, an electrician, moved the family from Mississippi to Clearwater. Her peers voted the tiny (5-foot-1) transplant homecoming queen at Clearwater High School.

While working at a doctor's office after graduation, she met Roger Bouchard, who had started a Clearwater insurance company. He proposed on the first date, then repeatedly until she said yes. Roger Bouchard Insurance grew from a one-man shop to more than 200 employees.

They had seven children. Sometimes as a learning experience, she drove them to Play Parc School, the precursor to the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens, which the Junior League had helped establish. They played there with retarded children.

"Before she would take us down there she would talk to us," said son Roger Bouchard Jr., 57. "She would say, 'You know, these people are just like you. They just think differently than we do.' "

She had a wicked side, too. She encouraged the children to scare each other and deceived them with April Fool's jokes. She told each of them that they were her favorite, then told each of 16 grandchildren the same thing.

She dressed casually and made a mean Rice Krispies fried chicken. In conversation, she had a way of getting people to talk about themselves, even if they started out asking about her.

But the best memories for her family start in 1963, when the Bouchards built a house on stilts on Little Gasparilla Island in Charlotte County. The kids played on the beach or worked on jigsaw puzzles. Mrs. Bouchard painted coconuts and embroidered mirrors with tiny shells. Each Sunday, they still dressed for church on the mainland.

A few years ago, Mrs. Bouchard gave her grandchildren a long-term wish list, including that they all: "get a black eye fighting for something you believe in"; "learn about hand-me-down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meatloaf sandwiches," and that "at least one time, you can see puppies born and your old dog (or cat) put to sleep."

A former smoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008. In recent weeks, she said goodbye to family members and told them she had left funeral instructions in her Bible.

Friday night, her children found them, plus messages addressed to more than three dozen family members. She had written specific prayers for some, and told all she loved them.

The family sold the beach house eight years ago. The Bouchards asked their children if any of them wanted to buy the cottage that had once symbolized the best years of their lives. The children thought about their hectic schedules and those of their own children, and declined.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Geraldine Ann "Jerry" Bouchard

Born: July 15, 1931.

Died: May 14, 2009.

Survivors: husband, Roger; sons, Roger Jr. and his wife, Sheila, Ralph and his wife, Wendy, Rick and his wife, Karen, Tim and his wife, Angela, Ray and his wife, Niki; daughters Marie McClung and her husband, Kelly, Terry Bouchard; 16 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren.

Service: visitation 6 to 8 p.m. today, Moss Feaster Funeral Home, 693 S Belcher Road, Clearwater. Funeral mass 10 a.m. Monday, St. Cecilia Catholic Church, 820 Jasmine Way, Clearwater. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Clothes to Kids or the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranches.

Mother of 7 Jerry Bouchard's family values were taught in paradise 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 6:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.