By J.J. Griffin
If there was a specific year to begin a coming of age tale, 1963 would be that year. As an 18-year-old in Akron, Ohio Jerry entered into young adulthood at a tumultuous time in US History. As the country was making decisions on how it would move forward in the politics of race and war, Jerry was deciding how he would move forward into adulthood. Jerry dreamed of going to college and traveling the world; he just didn’t know how he would turn that dream into a reality.
Shortly after graduation, he visited the local Navy recruiting office, knowing he could receive a draft notice at any time and wanting to get an idea of the process. Jerry figured the Navy would allow him to serve his country with pride and travel the world, plus with the education incentive, he could attend college.
Two weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jerry received his draft notice. As soon as he received it, he immediately went and enlisted. In February 1964, he was recruited into the Navy. He had no idea of where he was going or where this journey would take him, but it was undoubtedly the beginning of something that would mold him into the man he is today.
Jerry went to San Diego, California, for 12 weeks of basic training and was assigned to a Navy electronics school in Treasure Island, California. The Navy asked him where he wanted to go after completing school, but Jerry knew that he didn’t have much choice in the matter. He was assigned to the USS Boyd DD-544, a WWII destroyer operating off the coast of Vietnam.
As an electronics technician for the Navy, he was responsible for maintaining and repairing radio communications on the ship. However, as with every seaman, he was first assigned to kitchen duty. He enjoyed his time in the kitchen but was eager to begin the work that he studied so diligently in electronics school. Even though he had to be available 24 hours a day, he did so with pride because he knew just how critical radio communication was to the operation.
After two years of being out to sea, Jerry returned to San Diego, where he met his beautiful wife, Kathy, in March 1966. They were married a year later. He headed back overseas, where he operated up and down the Asia Pacific coast. His ship provided gun support to the troops, protected aircraft carriers, and conducted rescue missions for pilots whose planes had crashed into the Pacific. Jerry traveled the world; from the ports of Japan to Australia.
By the end of January 1968, 3 years, and 11.5 months, Jerry completed his service to the United States Navy. Jerry left home a young man with dreams of traveling the world and learning a skill. He returned, a mature young man who gone to war and traveled the world during one of the most tumultuous times in recent history. The world had changed within those four years, and Jerry had to figure out his place in it. With Kathy in her last year of college and him working part-time at a printing company and attending Pasadena City College, they decided to move back to Ohio to be closer to his parents.
Although Jerry was eager to be back home, adjusting to civilian life is not so easy. “Getting used to all the changes. Things change while you’re gone, and you try to figure out how and why around those changes, which is difficult”.
He worked for various computer companies as a technician to Sr. Technician to a technical manager. He and Kathy had two sons and moved from Akron to Detroit, Michigan. In 1994 he was recruited to make electronic sales where he continued to travel for over 17 years and estimates that he has traveled approximately 3 million miles in his life.
In 2004, Jerry was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had emergency surgery to have it removed. The hormone treatments he was on for ten years required that he be in a cooler environment. Jerry retired from the job he loved and moved with Kathy to Traverse City in 2012. They didn’t know a single soul in Traverse City. By 2017 when their children threw them a 50th wedding anniversary party, they surrounded by more than 100 friends.
Jerry always had an excellent eye for beauty and detail. He enjoyed photography, which he picked up from his dad, who also traveled quite often. Jerry saw it as a hobby, something he dabbled in; little did he know the dabbling would bring him to where he is today.
As a retiree, Jerry was doing more and more photography, but he still saw it merely as a hobby. By chance, while at a winery, he showed his photographs to a friend who is a graphic artist. The friend was so impressed with his work; he suggested that he should sell them. Jerry’s hobby of taking pictures turned into a second career as a photographer and currently sells his work in 6 locations. His various travels developed his love for landscape photography. He continues to travel with his wife, Kathy, and photograph the many places they encounter.
Those endless days at sea and war may seem like a lifetime ago. But to the brave men and women who honorably have and continue to serve this great nation, we are proud, humbled, indebted, and unimaginably thankful for the sacrifice and service you have given.
Jerry Stutzman – TC Photos TCemail@example.com