|Jerry Woodworking Outside. 2018. Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24"|
In October 1983, Jerry met a doctor who told him his life would consist of going home and waiting to die. He first referred to this death sentence as Von Recklinghausen’s Disease. Jerry was in shock. He did not know what to do. All of the information then was associated with Joseph Merrick, “The Elephant Man”. Ironically, weeks before his unfortunate diagnosis, he had met a man who first introduced him to “IT”, but he called it Neurofibromatosis (NF). He was living, successfully, with NF, appearing in a sideshow at the Tulsa State Fair. His stage name was “The Man with Two Faces”. One side of his face was about five times larger than the other. His name was Robert “Bob” Melvin. He was a nice gentleman, and Jerry was able to see him perform on more than one occasion. Jerry wondered if he would eventually look like him. Jerry felt mentally lost since he could not easily explain what was happening to him and Melvin was the only other person he knew with NF.
Jerry returned to high school to get his diploma. During the summer, he attended the Upward Bound Program offered by Rogers State College. Since he was unable to join the Navy, and was “sentenced to die”, he chose to return to school and work toward a degree. Jerry obtained his AA and BA in Technical Theatre from Rogers State College. He worked for a short time at Discoveryland in Oklahoma doing the play “Oklahoma!". Trying his hand at counter sales, he moved to Texas. He later worked managing and doing maintenance for a small motel. Choosing to take some time off from the motel, he traveled on a two man construction crew across seven states for about a year. Jerry later returned to Oklahoma, where he is now living and taking care of the house he grew up in. Around, the house, he tinkers with small projects using wood and other materials.
NF has inspired Jerry to do many things. In Jerry's words "I’m always advocating and iNForming people about Neurofibromatosis. I did my first NF Walk in 2010 and have continued to do so since then. I have also began running in the Cupid’s Undie Run in multiple states". Jerry was the top fundraiser for the Cupid's Undie Run in 2017. Jerry passed away suddenly and unexpectedly later that year. His legacy will live on through all who knew him.