Thursday, April 16, 2009

From Caren Daniels-Meade

I will never forget two specific incidences with good ole' Jer.  One was shortly after a new secretary had joined my staff at the Secretary of State's Office and Jerry had come in to get an answer to something.  In his usual way, he was loud and aggressive-sounding, and soon after he'd left my office my secretary had come running in to ask me who that rude man was and why he was yelling at me.  I looked at her, a bit puzzled, and said, "Oh him?  That was just Jerry Gillam from the Los Angeles Times.  He wasn't yelling at me.  That's just the way he sounds.  He's actually a pussycat, and a very sweet man!"

The second more recent incident was one night last basketball season when I still had season tickets to the Kings.  I was at a game and during half-time I was making my usual restroom trip when I noticed a man in a wheelchair a few feet away.  At the time, I was still working for PRIDE Industries, and one thing that had come out of that experience was a new sensitivity and compassion for people with disabilities.  So, instead of ignoring the man in the wheelchair which, sadly, we admittedly all do so often, I decided I was going to look the person in the eye and smile and say hello.  Well, guess who that person was?  It was Jerry Gillam!  He and June were at the game and, ironically, had been seated about 4 rows behind my set of seats.  We hugged and laughed and caught up and it was wonderful to see his continued positive spirit and enthusiasm for life.  

He readily expressed his joy at seeing me and easily told me what a thrill it was to have caught up with me and my life.  I responded in kind, happy for having the chance to show and tell him how I felt about him.

I saw that spirit again at Bob Schmidt's and Bob Fairbanks' 80th birthday party last June.  The man never grew cynical or discouraged, at least not publicly, over his diabetes challenges.  In fact, he'd gotten much more openly emotional over the years and never hesitated to express his true feelings.  I loved and admired him very, very much.  My heart goes out to June and his children and grandchildren.  He was a pillar and a dear friend!

-- Caren Daniels-Meade

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