In Memory of Jerry Remmers, Veteran Reporter, Editor, TMV Columnist, 1937-2011
The sad day many of his loved ones, former colleagues on the San Diego Union Tribune and all of us here at The Moderate Voice and his many fans on the Internet knew would come has finally arrived: the day when we have learned that Jerry Remmers, a wonderful brimming-with-life person who had new and old media pizazz flowing through his veins and faced a long-term illness with determination and courage, has left us. He passed away last night at Ramona Manor skilled nursing facility in Hemet, CA.
Jerry had long been battling diabetes and some other illnesses. He had written at least two farewell posts on TMV, both with the enormous grace, clarity, and personal voice that made you “know” him even if you never met him physically — and realize if you had spent any time in the news biz that he was a natural born writer and editor. His final farewell post on TMV was particularly poignant and just popped up one day on TMV, with no advance notice to anyone here. He once emailed me saying that no matter how ill he was, he wanted to keep writing. As his health sharply declined he emailed me saying he could not spend much time on his columns.But he kept sending me emails that looked like columns. So I offered to take these emails done quickly when he had the strength and run them as columns. He loved the idea. And so it went the past few months.
His one request: he didn’t want any more mentions of his illness on what he posted on TMV (except the last one he put up himself). He wanted people to focus on his content and his message, not on him. He didn’t want to be known as the writer with a terminal illness but as a columnist. I was in the news biz as a freelance and staff writer on two chain newspapers FAR FEWER years than Jerry. And I am in my other incarnation in show business. And to me, Jerry embodied the best aspects of both worlds: old-school journalism training, dogged determination to cover a story, and precision writing PLUS a strong belief that “the show must go on.” It was a show he decided to keep going until he could literally write no more.
But, once more, Jerry Remmers would be upset if he thought that was how he’s remembered. In fact, he provided this bio to members of an email list of former San Diego Union Tribune staffers. It reveals what a lot of us who communicated with Jerry by phone and email knew: he led an incredibly varied, textured life of challenges and triumphs with a solid anchor in fact-based journalism:
REMMERS, Jerry K. – Reporter/editor for the Evening Tribune Jan. 11, 1965-August, 1984. Born Nov. 28, 1937, Pasadena Calif. Graduate Webb high school, Claremont, Calif., 1956. Graduate UC Davis 1961. Editor Cal Aggie weekly student newspaper 1959 and 1961. Sportswriter Klamath Falls, Ore., Herald & News 1960. Reporter for Tustin News 1961, Orange Daily News 1962-1963, Santa Ana Register 1963-64. Employed Jan. 11, 1965 by Evening Tribune. Served as general assignment reporter, East County bureau, police reporter, sports, assistant city editor, politics editor and county editor. Quit in dispute with metro editor July 1984. Landscape contractor 1984-1990 in San Diego. Traveled U.S.A. in September 1990 and settled in Gold Beach, Ore., 1991-2001, working as RV park groundskeeper. Retired to write books in Nehalem, Ore., 2001 to 2003. Moved to Chula Vista after serious illness 2003. Moved to Temecula in 2006. Married to Stella Schirmer 1969. Divorced 1975. One son, Matthew, a National City police officer for 11 years and since 2006 investigator for Riverside County District Attorney. Two grandchildren.
I normally do not quote from email lists, but I think in this one instance it is worth sharing the comments of Jerry’s younger brother, since it fits in with the Jerry many of us on TMV knew when emailing him about his illness:
As you know, Jerry has long suffered ill health, most severe being diabetes. In the past year he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and colon cancer. He was too riddled by his diabetes to be a candidate for surgery. About a month ago he got overly dehydrated and really he started downhill from there. Until that time Jerry fought gamely, never complained or felt sorry for himself.
And that to me was Jerry Remmers.
In phone conversations and emails with him he faced a tough situation with determination, spirit and, in the end, a realistic view. His emails to me didn’t contain complaints. If he detailed some of what was going on, it was like he was reporting on someone else’s condition, who happened to be himself. He also shared his innermost thoughts with another TMV writer in emails.
I’m often asked how I “met” Jerry Remmers. In surfing the Internet for a TMV roundup on day, I came across his site and it was clear from the writing that this was someone with news or editing background. It was not a site with ideological or name calling posts. The style was journalistic. I quoted him and only later read his bio — learning that he worked at the evening newspaper (since closed) owned by the same company I had worked for from 1982-1990. I then realized I KNEW his name since I remember seeing it and even briefly saw him my first year there (he quit about a year after I arrived).
I invited him to Guest Voice post which he loved and then offered him the codes to be a TMV coblogger and later, when he asked about it, had him become a TMV columnist.
When there were breaking events, I KNEW I’d get an email from Jerry and likely see something up there within a few hours. We’d often exchange emails after that as well.
In this past year, as he was increasingly constrained by his illness, I think the Internet became of increased importance to Jerry, allowing him to fully participate when he wanted to and pick and choose when he would chime in. He became an integral part of an on-line community. He was interconnected to readers, other writers. Every time he wrote something he was a role model not for an ideology but for a way of looking at the world — a way of stepping back, taking a deep breath, and coolly analyzing. Not pulling your punches, but making the effort to step back and give takes independent enough so that people don’t know what you will say next time when they see your name.
Jerry would not be happy with my going on like this so — sensing him frowning — I will wrap it up like this:
Jerry it is trite to say but let’s say it: you will be missed. You were a role model.
No, not in terms of writing.
You were that, too.
You were a role model in terms of your courage, pizazz, reliability as a friend and co-writer, and sheer wisdom.
Your voice may not be here.
But your courage, friendship and wisdom will linger.