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“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” The incredible amount of concern, support, care and love extended to Jerry and his family throughout this whole ordeal, proves that he had a great heart that he shared with many people.
Gerald “Jerry” Swenson was born in Buffalo, New York on May 11, 1947 to parents Genevieve Charlotte Swenson and Nils Walter Swenson. His parents were first generation Americans born to Swedish immigrants. He moved to Brooklyn, New York where he lived as a child and eventually settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, then moved to Needham, and later, to Belmont.
Jerry’s life was not an easy one. His mother died when he was 16 years old and his father passed the following year. His newly married sister Pat, who passed last summer, and husband John, welcomed Jerry and his brother Richard, into their home, where they lived with her growing family of his nieces and nephews whom he dearly loved. Following his graduation from Northeastern University, Jerry began his career as an Army officer in the Medical Service Corps.
Jerry met his wife, Sandy, at a party in Cape Cod in 1968. Having heard of this guy years before nicknamed “Jerry the Hunk” by her friends, Sandy realized that this was in fact the very same Jerry her old high school friends had described in notes they had written to her. In a moment of sudden awareness, and with little regard to the fact that the room was filled with his friends, she blurted out, “Oh, I know who you are: you’re Jerry the Hunk!” and spent the remainder of the night embarrassing him by explaining who he was to everyone who heard her within a one mile radius!
Cape Cod was Jerry’s favorite place on earth. It is where he and Sandy spent many days watching sunsets at Nobska Light House at Woods Hole, and their honeymoon after marrying on November 6, 1971. It is where he planned to live the remainder of his days. However, he loved being by the water, be it Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, or lakeside. He leaves his family with so many wonderful memories of walks on the beach with his dogs, lazing in the hammock, fishing with his late father in law, Skilky, and dinners at Joe Mac’s and Captain Frosty’s.
Sandy and Jerry welcomed their first child, Kara Jean, born in California in 1974. In 1977, Christopher Walter was born in Texas. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for his children. He was an extremely humble person who never bragged, unless it was about his kids. He was a great husband and a parent, and taught his children how to be one as well.
The other love in his life was the Army. He has been stationed all over the world, to include Denver, Colorado, Ft Ord, California, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Texas, Ft Lee, Virginia, two wonderful tours in Germany where we traveled and camped all over Europe, Northern Virginia, Honduras and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Jerry retired as a Lieutenant Colonel following 24 years of loyal service. He had so much respect for every man and woman who has ever put on a uniform in honor of the United States. To dedicate one’s life to the service of your country is an honorable thing to do. He cared deeply for every soldier, who in conflicts, past and present, had given their lives to protect freedom and liberty.
There are probably a few personal interests and skills you might not have know about your relative or friend. He loved every dog he ever owned, including Abigail, Annabelle and Arley, although Arley is sometimes questionable. He loved his cat, Alexander. He didn’t much care for his other cats, Aristotle, for what he did to his uniform or for Amelia, who never forgave him for bringing home a puppy when she was queen. All of Jerry’s animals’ names began with an ‘A’ for animal, of course. He loved the little blue VW Beetle he had in college, he loved his Avalons. He was left handed and a great guitar player. He could fix anything and had a bit of a crush on Wonder Woman. Jerry was a great cook and grill master. He almost left the Army to become a SCUBA instructor in Monterey, California. He was a great racquet ball player, although his friend George might disagree. He loved Virginia wines, especially Breaux Vineyards. Until his knees could no longer stand the abuse, he was an avid runner who would run up to 6 miles a day during his lunch breaks. For someone who died so young, he took great care of his health and always ate well. Christopher remembers being the only 8 year old on “The Rotation Diet”, a simple consequence of having parents who were not going to make one dinner for the health nuts and another dinner for the kids! There is nothing he could have done to have prevented the terrible disease that took his life.
But by caring for himself for so many years, he was able to see 5 beautiful grandchildren into the world. He loved his grandchildren so much because they made him smile from the inside out. Charlotte and Aubrey, born to Christopher and his wife, Emily, will miss their Grandpa’s hugs and kisses and P parties (play dough, pizza, pudding and popcorn) Jackson and Emmeline will miss their Grandpa’s visits to Connecticut. The newest addition, James Eaton Gerardi, born to Kara and Michael Gerardi, was born 9 weeks early, for no other reason than to let his Grandfather know before he died, that he and his mom were healthy and OK. On the day of Jerry’s death, Kara and Jamie, 2 weeks old, also went home by Jet and ambulance, to Connecticut from Florida, where Jamie had been. Jerry could not let go of his life here on earth until he knew that his daughter and grandson were safe and where they were supposed to be, with Michael, Jackson, and Emme. He was an incredible Grandfather. Simply the best.
Everyone should have the privilege to die the way that Jerry died: peacefully, with courage and dignity. Sandy, Chris and Emily were by his side for every breath. Chaplain Donahue of Bethesda National Naval Center sung songs of peace in a serene, angelic voice. Grandchildren Charlotte and Aubrey visited earlier in the day to share with their Grandpa how much they loved him and to say goodbye. Kara and Jamie were finally home. It was a beautiful moment.
Jerry was a great man, husband, father, uncle and grandfather. He lived his life by what he believed in: he was extremely ethical, always chose the higher road, and always put his family first. He was loved by so many people and we miss him with all our hearts. What we would give for one more hug, a kiss, smile or moment. Sandy would have stayed by his bedside a thousand years, but it’s not our choice when it’s time to go. Many thanks to all of you who prayed for him and for us, during these last difficult weeks. You have enriched our understanding of this man we love so much through the stories you have shared, for that we will always be thankful. We have learned so much about Jerry from you. And many thanks to the Critical Care Unit at Bethesda National Hospital for the ultimate respect, gentle care, and support they gave to Jerry, as well as to us, during his eleven day stay. The amount of concern everyone shared with us was simply humbling. It meant so much to know that we are supported and helped us to realize how much you all truly loved for our dad, husband, uncle, brother, grandfather, brother in law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, cousin, coworker and friend.
If he could, he would thank you himself, for helping to take care of the family he loved so dear, when he could no longer do so. He would be humbled by the love you have all shown his way.
Memorial Donations in Jerry's name may be made to Brain Injury Services, 8136 Old Keene Mill Road, Suite B-102, Springfield VA 22152
March 13, 2011
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
March 14, 2011