Another VCU legend passes away.
Above: Our own Jerry Bates, below a photo of Akira Ouchi, his longtime friend and fishing companion. It hasn’t been long since we lost Ben, and now the greater VCU community mourns the passing of dear Jerry, legendary deacon of the fabled printing services at our old school. Once again we are thrown into swirling seas of memory, and look a little sadly at the horizon, knowing we have lost an irreplaceable companion.
All of us have our favorite moments with Jerry, and all of us knew his generosity and kindness, the charm of the consummate southern gentleman that he represented so well. He was also a great leader for the work-study students he guided in the printing lab, and his end-of-year parties (held behind locked doors), were rumored to be fantastic affairs. While I didn’t work in the lab, I was delighted one year when Jerry invited me anyway, and it was wonderful to watch him and his loyal crew “throw down.” While many good stories come to mind, how well I remember helping Jerry discover the riddle of the failing slide-film cases.
The Mystery of the Slide Film Rolls.
In old school days, as Akira would have said, we used to have to shoot slides not only for documentation, but to make presentations as well. A huge expense, but, thankfully, the VCU Photo department used to offer discounted film, packaged by hand by unseen photo majors. One batch proved especially troublesome, as many discovered, when the film would unexpectedly unroll inside the camera – not something you wanted to hear after hours of careful work on the copy-stand. Many, having heard the sound, innocently opened the camera only to expose the film inside. This would usually be accompanied by a quiet, “Fuck.”
As it quickly became apparent that this was a larger problem, Jerry stepped in to offer assistance. He was the master of that world, knowing the intricacies of each machine and station, and always eager to learn, and teach, more. The temporary solution wasn’t difficult, Jerry pointed both victims and potential victims to the darkroom to unroll the film, and we asked to see the canisters. Looking over this evidence, it quickly became obvious to us what the problem was – some flunky had used architectural tape to secure the film, which quickly loosened in the heat of the copy-stand.
Jerry was especially pleased with this little bit of sleuthing, and quickly engaged the whole room in a lecture about glue-strength and the betrayal we had faced at the hands of the unnamed perpetrators. I know that he especially enjoyed explicating the days events to the Photo department, as did we. Though passionate and engaged, Jerry was never arrogant or mean. His good humor never failed him, nor did his knowing smile.
Above: Photo courtesy of Sandra Wheeler. I last saw Jerry when I was invited back to VCU in 2010. Without prompting, he faithfully documented many moments and kindly gifted me with a burned CD of the various images at the end of the visit. Many of us had gathered at a favorite haunt that night when, inconceivably, we were visited by a young man dressed as a pink rabbit. Jerry’s irrepressible charm had convinced the confused rodent to join us at our table, where Jerry vividly recounted tales of a certain VCU rabbit, myself, to our unsuspecting guest. At the end of that evening, a last hug. Uncommon moments, unforgettable days, and the irreplaceable, inimitable, Jerry.
Above: Jerry Bates, samurai, wearing a paper hat made by a very special GRD_2000_SP10 grupetto. Special thanks to Sandra Wheeler and Anne Graves
for the photos.
Bon chance, mon ami.