Hollywood portrays angels as good people from an earlier era who return to aid the living. That this is not biblical rarely dissuades scriptwriters who apparently don’t know God’s angels were never human beings but original creations.
That said, if any human were to qualify for the job of earth angel, it would be Jerry Todd. Jerry, you probably know, passed away Tuesday and our community mourns his passing.
It was my great privilege to work with Jerry for many years at The Ada News, where he delivered newspapers and served as the paper’s number one public relations person.
Everyone, it seemed, knew him. One year during Ada’s Christmas parade it struck me like never before just how popular he was. As newspaper personnel marched along the crowded parade route someone shouted to me a couple of times each block. Virtually every other person called out to Jerry.
He was forever volunteering to help in whatever community event was afoot. Occasionally, he would walk into my office and ask me if I was going to help too. Often, my response centered on being too busy to do so.
“That’s okay,” he would say. “I’ll go in your place.” I rarely felt smaller.
In 2002 the Newspaper Association of America conducted a contest in which it was going to present an award to the nation’s best newspaper delivery person. Out of all the newspaper carriers in America, both large and small, Jerry won.
One of the criteria was to have letters submitted in support of the carrier’s nomination. Jerry persuaded well over 100 people to provide letters, including from the governor and state representatives. An NAA official told me later Jerry had by far submitted the most.
As a result, he and I got a free trip to San Diego, California, where he was presented the award.
On the plane trip there he proved something of a geography savant, naming rivers and other natural features below us as we flew over them. This was made all the more remarkable by the fact we couldn’t actually see these things. He just somehow knew.
His physical frame was small but it contained a giant’s heart. Jerry entered the carrier of the year contest the next year. The stakes were much higher this time because the winner would get a free trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
He gathered approximately the same number of letters of support and sent them in with his application form. But this time someone else was named the winner. No trip to see Mickey Mouse.
It fell on me to tell him, a job I did not relish. I screwed up my courage and broke the news as gently as possible by telling him a lady from another state had won.
Jerry didn’t miss a beat. He clasped his hands together just under his chin, smiled a great grin and said in as joyful a voice as I have ever heard, “Well, goodie for her!”
It is this kind of selfless joy that endeared Jerry to so many of us. He will be a welcome addition to the heavenly realm, no doubt greeted by his own angelic chorus.