Friday, December 14, 2012

Sailor Jerry

When we launched our boat this past summer, nerves in bundles and staring at our vessel with fingers crossed that it wouldn’t sink, a man came strolling down the dock and welcomed us to the live-a-board community. He introduced himself as Jerry Palazzo. He had those smiling eyes that could instantly put you at ease and a way of conversing that made you feel like you had known him for years. He was known on our docks as “the mayor”.

When we were settled into our slip, he extended an invitation to his boat. At the time we didn’t know “boat protocol” for going to another persons boat; do you knock three times on the side to see if they’re there? Give a little “ahoy matey!” perhaps? We screamed amateurs. Luckily though, when we went over, Jerry and a few friends were sitting in the cockpit and he warmly invited us to come aboard. Jerry handed us a cup with some rum in it and we fell instantly into pace of the ongoing conversation. So began our friendship.
The second time aboard his boat Jerry offered us a great conversation and a side of rum. “What type of rum do you think I have?” He mused, “Sailor Jerry!!” I exclaimed! “How did you know?!” he joked, as he slid out the bottle and poured us a sip with a big smile. This is how our summer floated by, sometimes with coffee, sometimes with rum, sometimes with water, but always with great conversation. We would go over to Jerry’s boat and what would start as a 30 minute talk in the afternoon would turn into hours long conversation. Eventually we would leave, engulfed by darkness but with our hearts light.

Jerry demystified the marina life, who everyone was, and was there at our slip to help us dock the first time we took the boat out. We exchanged tools, tips and advice. We discussed life and laughed about how nonsensical it was. He pointed out his favorite sailing haunts and told us stories about his adventures. When you would walk over the bridge at the marina in the summer and look to the left you could find Jerry sitting in the cockpit of s/v Quest giving a friendly wave or inviting you over. We sat on board and bitched over coffee about how the fog had rolled in that morning keeping us tied down to our cleats. He would be the first to tell you that without fail, if he had a vacation, the bad weather would roll in.

These are the memories I treasure and will forever hold dear. The welcoming face and the forthcoming smile.

Jerry had battled cancer for over 10 years. Two Wednesdays ago he walked off his boat and was admitted into the hospital after a cough that wouldn’t quit got worse. It would come to be that he would not leave, none of us prepared to say goodbye.

Jerry passed away Saturday, December 8th, 2012. Today was his memorial and the turn out was as big as his heart. With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes we told stories and laughed, all of us thankful for having known such a man.

“What are we going to do without Jerry?” escaped from the lips of a fellow live a board. “I don’t know.” I distantly responded.

But I do know. We will respect the life that we have, be kind to strangers and love the ones that are dear to us. We will continue to honor and respect the sea and land. We will set sail and explore life. Life is precious, it is up to us to make each moment count. You can’t afford to be unhappy at a job or scared to make a life changing move, you have to live. After all, we only have one shot at this, you have to make it worth it.

Thank you Jerry for being our friend and taking us under your wing. You will never know how much it meant to us. We all know you now have fair winds and are off sailing in the warm waters with the sun on your back. You will truly be missed.

If you knew Jerry or have a story about him you want to share I would love to hear it, he touched so many peoples lives. We only knew him a brief period but in that time he became an instrumental part of our sailing experience, I feel like we knew him lifetime.

Anthony "Jerry" Palazzo: Pictures shared at the memorial today, I love the younger pictures :)

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