Fron Lisbon, Portugal:
Hi everyone, and please excuse the indulgence, but instead of showing you photo highlights of our fabulous Europe trip (that will come!) a few words today about April 30 and my dad, Jerry.
He died on the eve of what would have been his 79th birthday, six years ago today. That was a Monday, in the evening, as he was sitting on the couch in his Santa Cruz home, watching the Golden State Warriors in the basketball playoffs.
His heart stopped.
I, as many of you know, was with him the DAY BEFORE, and health wise, except for few fainting spells and an irregular heartbeat, which had been hard to explain, he seemed as healthy as ever.
We had gone for a 90 minute walk around Santa Cruz and then returned to his home, where I interviewed him on video for just over an hour, talking about the early years in Indiana. The picture above was taken Saturday afternoon.
I said goodbye Sunday morning, drove back to L.A., sent him an e-mail Monday and received a reply in the afternoon.
“As for my heart beat, things were normal this morning. I went to the gym and worked out without incident.
See you in a couple of weeks.”
A few hours later after receiving the reply, Jerry’s wife Catherine called to tell me.
We all expected Jerry to live until at least 90, so it was a huge shock.
The moral to this story, which is why I’m sending it out again, is to remind everyone that you never know when the time is up. Just ask John Singleton’s family, or Laurie Kaye or any other recent names in the news.
It’s a cliche, but you know it’s true. Live every day as if it’s the last, spend as much time with the important people in your life as you can, and make sure to interview them on video to keep their memories alive!
Above: Jerry, Jeff and brother James “Jez” Graham. Lily, from Jerry’s second marriage, has a “no social media” rule, so I’m not including her picture here, per her wishes. (Lily, if you change your mind, I’ll update!)
Jerry was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1934 as Gerald Granowsky, married his high school sweetheart Judy after graduating from Indiana University, and got his first big job, as a TV cameraman, in Evansville, my first home.
A few months later, Jerry got a new gig as an “announcer” for Channel 12 in Binghamton, New York, which is where my brother was born, and where our family name changed. At the station, he appeared in the commercials, reading ad copy, doing call-in shows and eventually graduating to weatherman and host of the Popeye show, the TV Ranch Club.
Watch the video below to catch him recall those days.
From there, it was onto New York City, where Jerry originally wanted to be an actor (he got an audition for “Bye, Bye Birdie”) and fell into a job as a news writer for WNEW, which was one of the top stations of the era. He rose to program director, started an early radio consulting firm with his pal Bernie, and opened a radio station in the Berkshires. Eventually he moved west to San Francisco, to run legendary rock station KSAN.
Most of you in the San Francisco area reading this will remember his last act, as the genial host of the local travel show, “Bay Area Backroads,” which had a healthy run on KRON and is still fondly remembered today.
I tried to give you the thumbnail version here, as not to bore—but if you’d like more, I’m more than happy to fill you in! Just ask!
And that folks is our April 30th. For now, it’s onto a Fado show here in Lisbon tonight, where we’ll toast to Jerry’s memory.
He would have, and should have been, 85 today!
(Above: the tiles of Lisbon. More to come!)