There’s so much to say about Jerry Drake – he was creative, passionate, compassionate, light-heart- ed, intelligent. This shone through in all of his endeavors whether it be with his music, his teaching, his community, or his family. He was the salt of the earth.
Jerry taught in NYC public schools for over 30 years. He always cared for his students as if they were his own children; as if they were an extension or reflection, of him. Teaching was more to him than just a profession. He was so eager to share his passion with young people and found creative and compelling ways to do so.
Jerry had compassion for everyone he met. He always chose to see the good in everything and everyone – a true optimist. Although life had dealt him a few rough hands – nevertheless, he approached everything and everyone with kindness and positivity. When the world wanted him to crumble, he put on a smile and focused on the good aspect of whatever was at hand – even cancer.
While in the treatment waiting area at Memorial Sloan Kettering, he would still crack jokes and smile and laugh. He would converse with the doctors and technicians and ask them about their lives and tell them about his. While admitted to the hospital, he’d ask the nurses to move the wastebin so he could “shoot” his garbage into it and try to make it in. His spirit never cracked – never weathered. He rarely complained about being sick – he was deter- mined to beat this evil disease. Ultimate optimist, to the core. Jerry believed it was important to “do at least one small thing every day.” It wasn’t necessary to conquer the entire world, or an entire agenda in a day. If you did at least one small thing every day, they will add up and you will be successful; this was his mantra. The little things are the ones that matter the most – they all rolled up into the bigger picture.
He was in the process of writing a book of short stories, based on his life. On the next page is one of them:
Many years ago, there were two men, a soldier and a politician. The soldier was in the Army band and the politician, not much older than the soldier, was running for his first political office.
In the summer of that year, it seemed that everywhere the Army band played a concert, the politician was there too; American Legion Hall, VFW and many outside events.
After several of these events, one day, the soldier and the politician “caught” each other’s eyes. After that, they would look, perhaps smile and even exchange a few words: “How is Army life treating you?” “OK, how’s the campaign going?” This went on until Election Day, when the politician won, so off to Washington, DC he went.
A little over a year later, the soldier learned that the politician’s brother was killed. A week after that, the soldier was informed that it was requested that he play “Taps” at a memorial service for the brother.
When he arrived at the place where the ceremony was to be held, the soldier saw the politician and tried to “catch” his eye like before, but the politician just stared out into space.
At the finish, the soldier stood on a high hill and played for the hushed crowd. After that, he again tried to look at his friend but saw someone who seemed to be very different man.
The soldier and the politician never met again, after that night.
Lives intersect in so many different ways.
The politician was Edward M. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, and I was that soldier.
Jerry loved his family, his dog Rocky, his music, his community, his city, and his country. His students called him Mr. Drake; his friends called him Jerry; his parents called him Jerome; and I am the luckiest, because I got to call him Dad.