A life lived large.
That’s an apt description of Edwin Jeremiah Morrison, better known as Jerry, Jere Bear, Big Ed, Roadmap, Dad or Grandpa, depending on the circumstances and audience. He was a genuine soul who shared what was on his mind, regardless of circumstance or audience.
Jerry, of Hartland, died Friday, Nov. 15, of metastatic melanoma. True to his iron will, he outlived expectations and maintained his sense of humor until the very end.
He was memorable in so many ways – those caterpillar-like eyebrows that drew both admiration and astonished stares; the voracious appetite that prompted hosts to invoke the “Jere factor” when determining how many lamb chops to prepare for dinner; and a devoted pet owner who was never without a loyal lab or quirky cat, many living far beyond customary lifespans.
Oh, and the outrageous, at times cringe-worthy, stories from his walk through life, told and retold.
Above all, he was a fierce husband, father, grandfather, friend and co-worker who led by example – do what you say you’re going to do, work hard, arrive on time. And, let it be known, “on time” meant 15 minutes early.
Born on June 24, 1939, Jerry spent his early childhood on Aetna Court in Wauwatosa before moving to Beaver Lake in Hartland at age 10. There, he forged friendships that spanned seven decades – chief among them Jim Renner, the kind of friend each of us hopes to have in our lifetime.
Jerry’s youth was spent building daring water ski jumps, driving the legendary Blue Whale and tending to his chicken coop – a hobby his wise father thought might keep him out of trouble. At its peak, the operation produced upwards of 100 eggs per day, which he priced at a premium and delivered via bicycle to eager customers in the Hartland area. In later years, he helped his grandchildren and other enthusiasts establish their own backyard broods, stopping by each day to ensure coop harmony and cleanliness.
Jerry attended Swallow School when it was a one-room schoolhouse on the corner of Highway E and Highway K in Hartland. He often boasted about being valedictorian of the class of 1953. He would then admit that the graduating class consisted of him and two other students – siblings from an area farming family who were often excused from school to help with the harvest.
He graduated from Catholic Memorial High School in 1957 and, after being turned down by the U.S. Army because of a back injury (see reference to the daring ski jump above), he set out for Regis College in Denver, Colorado. While there, he admittedly spent more time hitting the slopes than the books. The skill and knowledge gleaned during those years led to a 40-year vocation in ski hill operations, first at Heiliger Huegel Ski Club in Hubertus and, in retirement, at Ausblick Ski Club in Sussex. He was also a baker for his family’s specialty bread business, Curdolac, in Waukesha; the proprietor of Woodlander Pizza in Aspen, CO; and a carpet layer during the off-season. His true passion, though, was always “the hill.”
He married Lynn Van Vleet in June of 1962. Together they raised three children – Michael (Vicky) of Milwaukee; Molly (Tim) Philosophos of Madison; and Jamie (Rebekah) of Conestoga, PA – who recall many winters at Heiliger Huegel and memorable family road trips to St. Pete Beach and various Colorado peaks. Although their marriage ended in 1998, Jerry and Lynn remained friends.
Jerry married Linda Zealley in 2004 and spent the next 15 years on numerous adventures. This included snorkeling in Bonaire, exploring the Greek islands, sailing in the Bahamas, shelling on the Delaware shore, hiking in Sedona, AZ, and moving various grandchildren into and out of college dorms. His trip planning, expert navigation and drive-straight-through mentality earned him the nickname Roadmap – proudly and appropriately displayed on his license plate for the past 20 years.
Despite his illness, he was determined to meet up with his children, grandchildren and significant others this past August for one last huzzah at son Jamie and daughter-in-law Rebekah’s beach house in Lewes, Delaware, where he strode into the surf, was hit by a rogue Atlantic wave and came up laughing.
His spirit of adventure lives on in his grandchildren: Mackenzie (Jordan) Jenkins and Eiley Morrison of Portland, OR; Logan Morrison, a student at UW Madison; Torger Philosophos of Madison; Niko Philosophos of Austin, TX; Demitra Philosophos, a student at UW Madison; Joshua Morrison of Milwaukee; Colin Morrison, a student at Penn State; Reed Morrison, a student at the University of South Carolina; and step-grandchild Sarah Sossaman of Hartland.
He is also survived by his stepdaughter, Susan Zealley (Randy Marker), of Hartland along with extended family and countless friends. Enormous thanks to each of you for your gifts of time, sustenance and memorable anecdotes over the past few months. Thanks, also, to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic and AngelsGrace Hospice for the remarkable care and compassion.
Jerry was preceded in death by his wife, Linda, this past September; his parents, Ed and Ganeva Morrison; and his sister, Ann Morrison.
At Jerry’s request, friends and family will gather for a raucous party in late spring/early summer at Ausblick Ski Hill in Sussex, where guests will have a chance to hear lively stories or share one their own. If you are interested in attending, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information. The family will provide details about the celebration once finalized.
Thanks to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic and AngelsGrace Hospice for their care and compassion during Jerry’s illness.
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