Uncle Jerry was not actually related to me by blood. In fact, we never really called him Uncle Jerry, it was always just Jerry. He and Dad met when they were randomly assigned as roommates at the dorm at the University of Kentucky, and they were best friends for the next 43 years. I have more memories of Jerry than of some blood relatives, but this is my favorite:

Jerry had moved into a house in Mt. Sterling, KY, and Dad and I had driven down to help him. This was a huge deal, because this was my first time hanging out with Dad and Jerry without everyone else around. I was “running with the big dogs” as they put it. We moved furniture and boxes, built the beds we’d all be sleeping on that night, then headed out to dinner at Applebee’s. I remember watching Dad and Jerry talk and laugh, feeling like I was sharing in something special. U2’s “New Year’s Day” played on the stereo, and I felt like I was growing up.

After dinner, we decided a movie was in order. Jerry had heard good things about this movie Pulp Fiction, so we went to that. As I’ve said before, that’s the movie I typically cite as placing me on this road to being a filmmaker. I was in awe, and the moment it was over I turned around and said “Again!” It was a huge moment for me, and it wouldn’t have happened without Jerry.

There are many other cultural things I’ll always associate with him. He was the first Trekker I ever knew. He loved hosting 4th of July parties, where we’d set off fireworks next to the lake in his backyard (with his cop neighbor present to make sure we never got in any trouble). One time, when I was with my parents somewhere in KY, he’d met up with us to help with something or other, and I asked to ride with him from Point A to Point B because I’d been in the car with my parents this entire time. He said yes. This may not sound like a large thing, but when you’re a kid, the world pretty much begins and ends at your parents. Jerry was an extension beyond that – family, but also not family. Family by affection, not blood. In short: Throughout my life, Jerry showed me what family and friends could be. That’s why I affix Uncle to his name. Out of  respect, and out of love.

Recently, Uncle Jerry was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. He died on Friday, July 19th, 2013. He will be missed.