20 January 2011

Remembering Jerry Mathis

All of my childhood vacations were centred around Coca-Cola conventions.  My mom collected Coca-Cola memorabilia, and we were members of the Coca-Cola Collectors Club International (and the local chapter, Mid-America Coca-Cola Collectors Club; we were Big MACC, until McDonald's wrote us a nasty letter).  If you ever visit my mom's house, you'll see that our full-sized basement is set up like a town square (complete with Astro-turf in the middle to simulate a park).  We have store fronts going around the perimeter of the basement, and each store front represents a different subset of the collection.

As you might imagine, when one goes to such week-long conventions, one meets colourful personalities.  One such personalities was Jerry Mathis.  Although I lived in Missouri at the time, and he and his wife Audrae lived in Kansas, I rarely saw them at the local chapter meetings.  But I always saw them at the national conventions.  He always wore these red long johns - the old-fashioned, footed kind with the butt-flap in Coca-Cola red.  He would usually do some kind of dance and lower the butt flap, and reveal a Coca-Cola patch or something.

His training was a paediatrician, and, of course, he was great with children.  He was also rumoured to have a bit of an alcohol issue, but, of course, as a child, I only heard rumblings about this, and I saw only that he raised his voice every once in awhile and this wife would lead him away saying, "Now, Jerry..."

Where is this blog post going?

Well, Mom just called me.  Jerry Mathis passed away in December.  As happens, it sometimes takes awhile for news to travel through the Coke grapevine, especially since Mom and I aren't especially plugged into it anymore (certain circumstances caused us to estrange ourselves from it when I was 17).  He suddenly got tired in summer or fall, and eventually went to Mayo Clinic for a diagnosis.  He had a rare and aggressive form of ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease).  He was told he had two months to live.  Exactly two months later, he died.

Mom asked me if I remembered Jerry Mathis.  "Sure, the guy in the red long johns!"  She kind of chuckled.  Then she told me the news.  Then she told me that he had asked to be cremated in his red long johns.  While I'm sad that he passed away, it makes me happy that I remembered him in a way that was apparently very meaningful to him.

1 comment: