Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Say “Uncle!” (Memories of Me Monday)

Deb-and-Uncle-Jerry copy{Uncle Jerry Lutes and me; March 1995; CSU Fullerton}

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Talk about your favorite uncle.”

Ok, I hate it when I’m expected to choose one, out of a group of things or people, as my “favorite.”  Who can pick their favorite from a basketful of adorable kittens?  Each one has its little quirks and personality and one might have a crooked tail, or one especially cute ears or coloring.  They’re all favorites, just for different reasons.

That’s how I’ve always felt about my uncles.  I have two on my Mom’s side of the family, and three on my dad’s.   I’d love to talk about each one of them (and eventually will) but for this post I’m going to write about the one I was closest to while I was growing up; my Uncle Jerry Lutes.

Uncle Jerry, or Fritz, as many people called him (though not us kids; we always called him Uncle Jerry) came into our lives when I was around 10 or so.  He began dating my mom’s youngest sister, Bonnie, who at that time was in her 20’s and had recently graduated from BYU.  (It’s weird to think how close in age Bonnie and I actually are – we’re probably only about 10 or 12 years apart!)

I first remember meeting Jerry Lutes at a family picnic.  It may have been on the 4th of July around 1967.  We were all at the park with Grandma Ware and Bonnie brought Jerry as her date.  I liked him immediately.  He was very friendly, and very playful.  He played ball with us, and wrestled with us, and paid attention to each one of us kids in a very kind way.  I liked that because often grown-ups ignored kids once the introductions were done, or said annoying things like “My, aren’t those freckles cute?” or asked pat questions like “What grade are you in, and do you like your teacher?”  Like they were even interested in the answers! 

And Uncle Jerry always treated me with respect, like a young lady, not a kid.  I loved him for that, for sure!

So anyway, Bonnie and Jerry dated for quite some time.  Then, as the story was told to me by my dad (who loves romance in all forms and told this story with great relish), Jerry asked Bonnie to marry him.

Bonnie was just not sure.

She asked for some time to think about it.  A lot of time went by.  Jerry got tired of waiting and moved somewhere far away (I think maybe Utah to attend BYU?).

Bonnie realized how much she missed him and wrote him a letter:

“I miss you.  I love you.  Marry me.”

I’m tellin’ ya, I remember this word for word.  I thought it was SO romantic!  Hey, I was at that age, remember?  Ten or so?  Give me a break!

Jerry came back and he and Bonnie got married.  They lived in Utah for a time, then returned to California with their first baby, Stephanie.  I sometimes babysat Stephanie which was always fun, she was a cute baby, and very happy and easy to take care of.

Over the years Jerry and Bonnie had 8 (yes, eight) more children, my cousins Jeremy, Erin, Elizabeth, Joshua, Emily, Ashleigh, Andrew, and Heather (not necessarily in birth order).  With my other cousins in the Bisk family - Brian, Stacy, and Laurel - we had great fun gathering at my Gram Ware’s house for Easter Egg hunts, Christmas Eve parties, and Thanksgiving dinner, just to name a few.

Uncle Jerry was always there, and often in the thick of things with us kids.  Like my dad, he was young-at-heart and joined in the games with as much enthusiasm as the youngest children.  If Gram Ware organized us into baseball teams Jerry was the loudest cheering from the sidelines, or he’d coach third base where he’d urge us to steal home whether or not it was a good idea!

One of the things I loved about Uncle Jerry was his artistic abilities.  I loved drawing, painting, and other types of art myself, and admired anyone with talent in those areas.  And he had talent.  He drew portraits, designed many of his kid’s birth announcements, and painted a series of lighthouses for a collection he called “Fingers of Light” for his Master of Arts exhibit at UC Fullerton (see photo at top of this post).

And, get this?  For some years he worked at Disneyland!  First, he did caricatures of people – how fun is that?  And then!  He worked in Gepetto’s Toy Shop on Disneyland’s Main Street where he drew Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters.  These original drawings were then shrunk down to fit inside the face of a watch and sold in the store.  Can you imagine?  Truly, you couldn’t get any cooler.

Uncle-Jerry-at-Disneyland copy 
{Uncle Jerry at work in Gepetto’s Toy Shop – Disneyland}

I just wish I’d had a chance to buy one of those watches.  Not too long after he started that job Uncle Jerry died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  It was a huge shock to us all.

My life is richer for having had him in it.  I still miss him very much.

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”


Elizabeth Peterson said...

OK I wasnt prepared for this post. I love the picture at the top and I love what you wrote about my Dad. He was an amazing person and I know enriched the lives of so many around him. The year after he passed for christmas my Mom bought all of us kids one of his watches so that we could have one personal for us. It is very special to me. thanks for sharing your memories of my Dad. Love it!

Elizabeth Peterson said...

OK I just wanted to let you know that I loved this post so much I stole it and posted it on my blog. I really hope thats ok. I just love the things that you wrote about and I want to be able to have this forever for myself! :0) I did give you your credit but if it bugs you let me know and I will unpost it! Thanks Deb!

J. Frankenstein Lutes said...

I love that your paint splattered dress matches his paint splattered tie. PRETTY awesome.

Deborah W said...

Hi cousins, thx for your comments! Elizabeth, of course, you can use my post on your own blog - steal away! I'm glad you enjoyed my memories of your dad!

JFL, your dad and I planned our outfits ahead of time, ha ha!!

Susan said...

What a wonderful tribute to your uncle! I think of these things, but never write them down. I should change that! Thanks for the inspiration.

Stephanie Fortini said...

Debbie, I just happened to stumble onto this page by chance. Cami had asked me if we could find anything about her grandpa on the internet and your blog popped up. It was so wonderful to read the memories that you had of my dad! I miss him terribly and am so thankful for the things that he taught us!