I got the letter from Harald Gorges this morning saying that our friend, Jerry Roquemore, had passed on to be with his Lord. It is a funny feeling to have known someone who got old and worn out and have people look at them as if all they are is a worn out old man or woman without a history that was extraordinary or full of adventure or amazingly beautiful or strong. Now, with the shell of a person all you have to look at. I even find that I can forget some of my past in the same way. Maybe that is why we write things like this. To remember some of the cool.
Jerry, Harald and I were kind of like the three musketeers for a while there in Yap. We worked on a little worn out Cessna 150 so we could teach Harold how to fly. We did some bodybuilding because Jerry used to be a world class body builder, Venice Beach, California. He even had his pix on the cover of some magazines. That was a bit before Arnold Schwarzenegger made it all famous. But Jerry and I would work out in the evenings after flights. He really knew what he was doing and I got in pretty good shape. But I don’t think I was dedicated as much I might have been.
Jerry was also a champion Parachute jumper, had won competitions and was even a silver medalist in world competitions. This was before the days of wing type chutes when it actually took more skill to hit a spot on the ground from high in the air. I had flown jumpers in my early flying career but never actually jumped. Cher jumped a couple times and it was a very strange thing watching your world fly out the door of a perfectly good airplane like that. So, Harald and I took the training with Jerry. But when the time came, there was nobody to fly the plane for my jump. That is OK with me. I always felt that there was a little truth to the saying that “there are only two things that fall out of the sky, bird crap and fools.”
We liked to explore the island with all the old World War II aircraft and anti-aircraft guns and other leftovers all over the jungle. We even dived a couple of shipwrecks. It was good adventure.
I have already written about some of our flying adventures and of a night flight to pick up a little boy who had sliced his arm with a machete and getting lost going to Woleai Atoll and running out of fuel on the way back in the Micronesia section of True Tales. In later years Jerry really encouraged us in our faith and focused me on the prize instead of the pain of life, which was great when he was the one suffering most.
In the end, I always felt like I had a great wingman in Jerry. When he was around there was always someone guarding my back and willing to make the sacrifice for the team. I will always be glad for the time we spent together and remember to tell our stories around the campfire.