Remembering Gerald Scholvin
My uncle Jerry died on New Year’s night, peacefully, in his sleep. He was 76.
To say Jerry faced challenges throughout his life doesn’t begin to describe it. At the age of four he was hit by a truck, suffering severe injuries to his pelvis and legs. Given the medical technology available at the time, it’s remarkable he survived at all. The state of rehabilitation practices was also primitive in 1938; he basically had to teach himself to walk again just a couple of years after learning for the first time.
I tend to believe that Jerry’s self-rehab at such an early age set the stage for a lifetime of dogged independence. Some time after college he decided, quite reasonably, that he’d had enough of Chicago winters, and so he moved to Los Angeles and later Phoenix. Even though he still had some mobility challenges as an adult, he disregarded the advice he was receiving to stay close to home to get help if he needed it. He didn’t think he needed any help, thank you very much.
Jerry was a true die hard when it came to his love of the White Sox and the Bears. When he got older, he moved back to Chicago and inexplicably chose to live on the far north side, in Rogers Park, deep in Cubs territory. I asked him why once, and he said, “because by being the only Sox fan up here, I’m automatically the smartest guy on the block.” No argument.
During the last few years of his life, I was the family member who lived closest to him, and so I got to know him a little better. He wasn’t around a lot when I was a kid, and, honestly, my dad’s family isn’t knit all that tightly. I’d stop by and we’d talk baseball and football and politics. He was a fierce, passionate liberal. We couldn’t talk college basketball, though, since for some bizarre reason he was a Duke fan.
Jerry’s health wasn’t great for the last few years. He had a couple of terrible infections in his legs, some coronary issues, other problems. He lived in a couple of places that were, frankly, less than awesome. It wasn’t a pretty picture, in the aggregate. And even though he had much he might complain about, he never did. Not one time. Every time I asked him how it was going, he said it was great. Enthusiastically. And then he’d ask about my wife and kids, how work was going, what I thought of that asshole Palin. Enough about me. Tell me about you. My dad told me he was that way his whole life.
My sister and my aunt went up there to gather his things the other day, and they found something remarkable: a collection of letters, dating back years, that Jerry’s friends had written him. He’d saved every one. Friends he’d made along the way at various stops around the country and here at home, just writing to check in. These were old school letters, hand written, the kind you take extra time to do, to think out and get right the first time without the benefit of the backspace key. We’re contacting the people who wrote those letters to inform them of his passing, and to let them know that we’ll be having a memorial service this spring to celebrate his life. He hated winter, and would have appreciated that we’re waiting.
Safe travels, Uncle Jerry. The kid you used to call “Tiger” loves you and will miss you.
Gerald “Jerry” Scholvin, 30-Dec-1934 — 1-Jan-2011, is survived by his brother Ken (Dyanne), brother Charlie (Jean), sister Joan (Victoria), four nieces and nephews, four great-nieces and great-nephews.