We knew that eventually, we’d lose a loved one, which would require an imminent trip to the US, mainly because Tom is the youngest of his remaining eight siblings. Sadly, last night Tom’s eldest sibling Jerome, 94, passed away after a short illness resulting in him being in hospice care at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the past few days.
This morning, Tom awoke to a message from his daughter Tammy and Jerome’s daughter Jerri that Jerome passed during the night. Tom hasn’t been able to talk to anyone in his family yet since he found out it was the middle of the night in the US with the eight-hour time difference. As soon as the family starts waking up today at around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. when he will talk to the family to find out when the services will be held to ensure he gets to the US in plenty of time for the funeral.
Jerome has been an integral part of the lives of Tom’s family members and our lives. In the first several years of our world travels, we sent him our posts daily so he could listen to them on his talking computer. Jerome was totally blind and had been so since 1970 but had adapted amazingly well to this limitation. (We always admired Jerry’s strength and ability to fend for himself, and he has lived in his own home until this recent illness).
When we decided to leave to travel the world, Jerome encouraged us to do so with gusto. We even wrote a story about his enthusiasm for our travels in this post dated December 18, 2012, only a few months after we left. Please refer to that post which so well shares Jerry’s powerful and supportive message that “we’d be his eyes as we traveled the world.”
Jerome was a twin, born on a farm in Winsted, Minnesota. His twin, a boy named James, passed away several days later. The family always honored the loss of his twin and, of course, Jerome, as the eldest of 11 children in the family. The family includes well over one hundred multigenerational members, many of whom we’ve yet to meet with many recent births.
Jerome was a great-great-grandfather. His beloved wife, Lee, whom he referred to as “his favorite Norwegian,” passed away in December 2013. They’d been married for 61 years. He and Lee had three children, Jerri, Steve, and Kathy, with many young ones following from his eight grandchildren and now great and great-great-grandchildren. Jerome always said his only regret was being unable to see the faces of his grandchildren and eventual great and great-great-grandchildren.
Jerome’s attitude and demeanor left all of us reeling with wonder. His blindness was but a blip in his daily life and was often a source of well-intended good humor by his family, teasing him about driving a car and giving great driving directions. He was masterful at playing cards using special Braille-marked cards. Family members often played cards with him, including us, when we lived in Minnesota and when we visited in the past 10-plus years.
When I first met Jerome in 1991 at my then house in Minnesota, long before Tom and I were married, I told Tom after everyone left after a fun day by the lake, “Your brother Jerome “felt me up” (non offensively, of course). He felt the sides of my body and the features on my face. I stood there patiently, not saying a word, nor did Lee, his wife, sitting beside him. Tom laughed and responded, “That’s how Jerry can tell what you look like.” We often told this story accompanied by a heartfelt chuckle.
Jerome loved that we were living a dream life by traveling the world. When we called him, he often asked many questions and was fascinated by our stories and adventures. And we could spend hours listening to his stories of the decades of family life and his experiences before and after he went blind. Like their dear mother, Mary, Jerome was a fine storyteller up until the end of their lives. never forgetting even the most minute details, including dates and events.
Jerome will be sorely missed by all the lives of those who knew and loved him or anyone who may have been fortunate enough to cross his path.
We send our love and prayers to all the family members whose hearts are broken and saddened by this loss of their dear man. We grieve along with you and pray for his restful eternity with his beloved wife, Lee, “his favorite Norwegian.”
Photo from one year ago today, March 2, 2022: