REMEMBERING A DEAR FRIEND AND OUR LIVES SPENT TOGETHER

 
 

IT WAS IN AUGUST OF 1962 WHEN MY DEAR FRIEND JERRY YORK AND I FIRST MET AT A LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL ALLSTAR TOURNAMENT AT SULPHUR SPRINGS LITTLE LEAGUE IN TAMPA, FLORIDA. EVEN THOUGH JERRY AND I DIDN’T EVEN PLAY IN THE SAME LEAGUE THERE WAS STILL AN INTERST IN HOW EACH TEAM WAS DOING IN THE TOURNAMENT AS SEVERAL PLAYERS FROM EACH TEAM WERE FRIENDS FROM JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL. JERRY PLAYED AT EAST POINT LITTLE LEAGUE WHILE I PLAYED FOR BRANDON LITTLE LEAGUE JUST 10 MILES APART. IT WAS THROUGH A MUTUAL FRIEND THAT I WAS INTRODUCED TO JERRY.

IT WAS THE FOLOWING YEAR IN 1963 AT THE AGE OF 13 WHILE PLAYING IN THE SAME LEAGUE (BRANDON PONY LEAGUE) BUT STILL ON DIFFERENT TEAMS THAT JERRY AND I REALLY GOT ACQUAINTED IN A PERSONAL MANNER! I WAS A CATCHER AND JERRY WAS A 2ND BASEMAN AND VERY FAST. IN PONY LEAGUE IN THE 60’S WE PLAYED JUST 7 INNINGS. I REMEMBER IT LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. IT WAS THE BOTTOM OF THE 7TH INNING, THE SCORED TIED 2-2 WITH 1 OUT AND JERRY WAS ON 3RD BASE REPRESENTING THE WINNING RUN. THE BATTER HIT A SHARP GROUND BALL TO OUR 1ST BASEMAN WHO FIELDED THE BALL AND INSTANTLY FIRED IT HOME WHERE I WAS IN POSITION TO SAVE THE DAY AND TAG JERRY OUT AT THE PLATE. BEING THE SPEEDSTER HE WAS THE BALL AND JERRY ARRIVE SIMULTANEOUSLY. BACK IN THOSE DAYS BOYS WERE MEN! WE WORE STEEL CLEATS. I GUESS IN TODAYS TERMS YOU MIGHT DESCRIBE THE SITUATION AS A TRAIN WRECK. WHEN THE DUST CLEARED BOTH OF JERRY’S FEET AND LOWER LEGS WERE BETWEEN MY SHIN PROTECTORS AND MY SHINS. IT TOOK THE HOME PLATE UMPIRE (EDDIE HAND) SEVERAL MINUTES TO UNTANGLE US. EVEN THOUGH I HELD ON TO THE BALL, JERRY WAS CALLED SAFE AND HIS TEAM WON THE GAME. WE’VE ARGUED THAT CALL ALL OF OUR LIVES. FROM THAT POINT ON JERRY AND I BECAME BEST OF FRIENDS!

OUR BASEBALL CAREERS TOGETHER WAS NOT OVER. WE PLAYED ONE MORE YEAR OF PONY LEAGUE BALL BUT STILL ON SEPARATE TEAMS. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY JUNIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL THAT WE FINALLY GOT TO PLAY ON THE SAME TEAM AT BRANDON HIGH SCHOOL. EVEN THOUGH I WAS ONLY 6 MONTHS OLDER THAN JERRY HE WAS STILL A YEAR BEHIND ME IN SCHOOL AND DIDN’T MAKE IT TO BRANDON UNTIL THE 1966-67 SCHOOL YEAR. JERRY CONTINUED TO STEAL BASES AND I CONTINUED TO GET BEAT UP BEHIND THE PLATE. ON THE FIELD WE WOULD FIGHT WITH ANYONE THAT GOT IN OUR WAY AND SOMETIMES EVEN FIGHT EACH OTHER BUT NEVER ONCE DID OUR FRIENDSHIP EVER FADE.

AFTER THE SCHOOL YEARS JERRY STARTED A CAREER WITH THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY FLORIDA SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT AND I STARTRD A CAREER IN AQUACULTURE. SOON THEREAFTER WE BEGAN HUNTING TOGETHER, SHOOTING DOVES WITH OUR MUTAL DEAR FRIEND JIM MASSARO AND MANY OTHERS AS WELL. BUSY WITH OUR CAREERS AND FAMILIES AT THIS TIME OF LIFE OUR TIME TOGETHER WAS LIMITED BUT CHERISHED ON EVERY OCASSION WE WERE TOGETHER.

DURING THE MID 70’S JERRY STARTED HUNTING WITH MY BROTHER HAROLD AND ME AT OUR PLACE IN ESTILL, SOUTH CAROLINA, MY CURRENT HOME SINCE 1988 AND CONTINUED TO HUNT WITH US THERE THROUGH THE MID 80’S. JERRY ACTUALLY MADE THAT TRIP WITH BROTHER HAROLD MORE THAN WITH ME. OFTENTIMES I WOULD JOIN THEM FOR THE CONCLUSION OF A HUNT SO WE COULD SPEND SOME TIME TOGETHER. IT WAS DURING THOSE TIMES WITH HAROLD THAT A VERY IMPORTANT FOUNDATION WAS BEING LAID THAT WOULD INFLUENCE THE REST OF JERRY’S LIFE. IN RECENT YEARS AND IN OUR QUITEST TIMES TOGETHER JERRY OFTEN MENTIONED THOSE TIMES AND HOW GRATEFUL HE WAS THAT HAROLD HAD SHARED MANY TRUTHS ABOUT LIFE WITH HIM.

MANY YEARS WOULD GO BY AFTER SANDRA AND I MOVED TO SOUTH CAROILNA IN 1988 BEFORE JERRY AND I WOULD REALLY CONTINUE THE STRONG RELATIONSHIP THAT WE HAD DEVELOPED EARLY IN LIFE. IT WAS ACTUALLY IN JULY OF 2011 AT OUR FRIENDS JIM AND CHERYL MASSARO’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY THAT WE WOULD MEET AGAIN. AS MUCH AS HE LOVED IT, JERRY HAD ONLY HUNTED SPORADICALLY FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS IN SC AND AL. AFTER OUR REUNION AND A SHORT TIME OF HUGGING, KISSING, JUBILATION AND CATCHING UP ON EACH OTHERS LIFE I ASKED JERRY IF HE WOULD LIKE TO BE A PART OF BUCK RUN HUNTING LODGE, A COMMERCIAL HUNTING OPERATION SANDRA AND I STARTED AT THE BEGINNING OF 1992. AFTER A FEW DAYS OF CONTIMPLATION JERRY AND HIS LOVELY WIFE ALICE JOINED THE BUCK RUN TEAM IN THE FALL OF 2011. I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT JERRY HAD RETIRED A FEW YEARS EARLIER.

WITH HIS JOKING AND NEVER SERIOUS ATTTIUDE AND ALWAYS WILLING TO PLAY A PRANK ON HUNTERS HE INSTANTLY BECAME THE FAVORITE OF MANY! FROM GUIDING HUNTERS TO STANDS, TO TRACKING THEIR CRIPPLED DEER, CARING FOR THEIR GAME OR SIMPLY JUST TALKING AND FELLOWSHIPPING WITH EVERYONE, THE REQUEST BY HUNTERS FOR JERRY TO BE HERE ON THEIR HUNT EVERY YEAR GREW DAILY. JERRY EVEN STARTED HIS OWN FAN CLUB WITH A GROUP FROM NEW JERSEY. HE APPROPRIATELY NAMED THEM “JERRY’S KIDS.” HE WOULD EVEN GO SO FAR AS TO PROVIDE THEM WITH PACIFIERS, BIBS, SIPPY CUPS, TOY GUNS AND EVEN A SHORT BUS TEE SHIRTS TO WEAR DURING THE HUNT. THAT INSTANTLY BECAME A HIT AND AN ANNUAL TRADITION.

I WILL NEVER FORGET NOVEMBER 24, 2014! JERRY AND I HAD JUST FINISHED FILLING FEEDERS WITH 560, 50 POUND BAGS OF CORN (YOU DO THE MATH) OR SHOULD I SAY JERRY HAD JUST FINISHED DOING THAT. I DIDN’T LIFT THE FIRST BAG AS I HAD JUST RECEIVED BACK INJECTIONS. JERRY NEVER COMPLAINED ABOUT MUCH AT ALL, AT LEAST TO ME, BUT THAT DAY HE MENTIONED SOME SEVERE BACK PAIN WHICH WAS VERY UNUSUAL FOR HIM. HE AND ALICE WERE SCHEDULED TO SPEND THANKSGIVING WITH US BUT DECIDED TO GO HOME AND GET SOME MEDICAL ATTENTION.

AFTER RECEIVING MASSAGE AND CHIROPRACTIC THEREPY AND GETTING NO RELIEF JERRY DECIDED TO RECEIVE MEDICAL ATTENTION FROM HIS PRIMARY CARE PHYYSICIAN.  FOR THE REST OF NOVEMBER AND ALL OF DECEMBER SANDRA AND I MAINTAINED CONTACT WITH BOTH JERRY AND ALICE NOT EXPECTING MUCH OF ANYTHING EXCEPT MAYBE SOME PULLED MUSCLES, A PINCHED NERVE OR EVEN SOME BACK STRAIN.  BOY, WERE WE WRONG!  THE NEXT CONTACT WE HAD WAS IN JANUARY WHEN WE RECEIVED A PICTURE FROM ALICE OF JERRY RECEIVING HIS FIRST ROUND OF CHEMO IN AN ONCOLOGY WARD.   SAY WHAT!  JERRY HAD BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH MULTIPLE MYELOMA, A CANCER OF PLASMA CELLS, SOMETHING NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR.

AFTER MONTHS OF CHEMOTHEREPY REMISSION WAS FINALLY ACHIEVED AND AS YOU WOULD EXPECT JERRY WAS BACK AT BUCK RUN.  WITH LIMITED ACTIVITY JERRY CONTINUED TO HELP WHERE NEEDED AND EVEN CONTINUED TO BABYSIT HIS KIDS AND SHOWER THEM WITH GIFTS.  JERRY AND ALICE CONTINUED TO ASSIST AS MUCH AS WAS POSSIBLE BUT REALLY SPENT MOST OF THEIR TIME IN THE MOUNTAINS OF FRANKLIN, NORTH CAROLINA AT THEIR SECOND HOME, A PLACE JERRY DEARLY LOVED!

DURING SEPTEMBER 0F 2020 WHILE AT THEIR MOUNTAIN HOME JERRY BEGAN TO RUN A FEVER AND AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS OF NOT BEING ABLE TO CONTROL IT, THEY DECIDED TO RETURN HOME FOR MORE MEDICAL ATTENTION.  THE DIAGNOSIS WAS NOT ONE THEY WANTED TO HEAR.  YES, THE CANCER WAS BACK AND EVEN MORE AGGRESSIVE THAN BEFORE.  AFTER SEVERAL ATTEMPTS FROM MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS TO SLOW THE PROGRESSION, THE CANCER PREVAILED.

SOME OF YOU MAY BE THINKING THE STORY IS OVER HOWEVER, THIS IS WHERE IT BEGINS!  REMEMBER THOSE DAYS WAY BACK IN THE 70’S AND 80’S I MENTIONED EARLIER WHEN JERRY AND HAROLD WERE HAVING THOSE CONVERSATIONS THAT I SAID WOULD AFFECT THE REST OF JERRY’S LIFE?  THOSE COVERSATIONS WERE ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE, ABOUT JERRY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST AND WHAT ONE MUST DO TO RECEIVE THAT ETERNAL LIFE.  THAT QUESTION WAS ANSWERED FOR JERRY IN 1998 WHEN JERRY ASKED JESUS INTO HIS HEART, REPENTING OF HIS SINS AND ACCEPTED JESUS AS HIS SAVIOR.  AMEN, HALLELUJAH AND PRAISE THE LORD!

I HAVE HEARD MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT JERRY LOST HIS BATTLE WITH CANCER.  I WILL NOT COMMIT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER BUT WHAT I WILL SAY IS WHERE JERRY IS RIGHT NOW, THERE IS NO MORE TEARS, NO MORE PAIN, NO MORE SORROW, NO MORE DEATH FOR DEATH SHALL NOT HAVE DOMINION OVER US!  AMEN AGAIN, HALLELUJAH, AND PRAISE THE LORD AGAIN!

WITHOUT A DOUBT I KNOW THAT JERRY IS SMILING RIGHT NOW AS I SHARE THIS STORY AND I KNOW WHAT HE WOULD WANT ME TO SAY TO ALL WHO READS THIS TRIBUTE.  HE WOULD SAY IF YOU HAVE NEVER TRUSTED JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR, IF YOU HAVE NEVER REPENTED OF YOUR SINS AND IF YOU HAVE NEVER INVITED JESUS TO COME INTO YOUR LIFE PLEASE DO THAT RIGHT NOW (ROMANS 10: 9,10).  IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE JERRY AGAIN AND RELIVE ALL THE GOOD TIMES PLEASE HEED THESE WORDS!

JERRY’S FAVORITE PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE WAS JEREMIAH 29:11. HE SHARED IT OFTEN WITH MANY.  GOD HAD A PLAN FOR JERRY.  JERRY KNEW IT AND ACCEPTED IT AND NOW HIS FUTURE IS SAFE AND SECURE!

JERRY YORK IS MY FRIEND!