May 8, 1973 – August 27, 2019
By Veronica Jacobs, Houston Volunteer Lawyers
Jerry was a gift to us, to the greater Houston community, to his clients, and to Houston Volunteer Lawyers (HVL).
Jerry and I worked together for more than 12 years. Our friendship grew out of our passion to help persons living with HIV/AIDS not to just survive, but to thrive. When we first met, we worked for different legal service providers. Jerry was the executive director of Southeast Texas Legal Clinic in Montrose, whose sole focus was representation of persons living with HIV/AIDS. In 2007 I called Jerry to ask if he knew of an attorney who might be interested in working with me at HVL. That was a no-brainer. Jerry came to work at HVL and we finally had the opportunity to work as a team.
We visited clients at hospitals, hospices, their homes, at clinics, and at AIDS service organizations. Lawyers went into the community to serve clients. Lawyers from Harris County and beyond volunteered to help us. Jerry set the ultimate example for service to persons living with HIV/AIDS. He was non-judgmental, an active listener, and a tireless advocate. Jerry was not quick to tell clients what to do. He let them talk and the solution was a shared decision.
Jerry’s passion was contagious and his approach holistic. Sometimes the problem was not legal, but just life. Jerry volunteered his parents, Penny and Jerry Sr., Grandma Lois, and his brother Jeff for projects. They did everything from helping move his office to acting as witnesses at will clinics. Jerry even volunteered Jeff and his truck to help a client move. Jerry worked tirelessly to educate the community by giving presentations to clients, case managers, fellow attorneys, and anyone else who would listen.
Jerry’s client base was broadened beyond the HIV community. He brought the same passion to the larger community and wanted to help everyone. When HVL began working with the Harris County Law Library to provide assistance to pro se persons, Jerry was at the helm. He was sought after. Some people would come by and ask, “Where’s the bearded guy? I want to talk to him.” Jerry even had a jar of change at his desk to help visitors pay for copies. Jerry was a favorite among clients, volunteer attorneys, and his fellow staff members. He was always the first to volunteer at the office when we needed someone to fill in for another attorney. On a Saturday morning, Jerry got out of his bed and drove from Montrose to Baytown to help out because we didn’t have enough volunteer attorneys at the clinic.
Jerry was also a prankster. He would hide our office supplies just to watch us look for them. When we glanced his way he’d say, “I didn’t do it this time. It wasn’t me.” Oh Jerry, we wish it was not you that we’re saying “goodbye” to.
Jerry was an angel among us. His life was well lived. He touched others in beautiful ways. As Jerry was coming to terms with the end of his life, he said he just wanted people to sit around and tell stories about him. Let’s nurture our favorite memories of Jerry and keep a place for him in our hearts.
Jerry will be missed for his dedication and willingness to advocate for the less fortunate, his exuberant spirit, and his practical jokes. We have lost not only an exceptional attorney and colleague, but also a trusted friend and mentor.