Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye.
For me, that applies to a lot of things, including shoes. I’ll buy a pair of shoes and, if I like them, I’ll wear them in, wear them out, and then keep on wearing them until they literally start to fall apart. In a few cases I’ve even attempted to glue them back together again just so I can wear them a little more.
I was wearing a pair of shoes a little longer than I should have when I stepped into the Jamestown Fire Department building one evening, and one of the soles had finally given up the ghost, flapping against the bottom of the rest of the shoe and the fire hall floor. I ignored them and looked for a firefighter, so I could get some basic information about a fire that had happened earlier.
It was Deputy Chief Jerry Kainz who helped me out, but not without pointing out the problem I was having with my shoe and teasing me a bit about it. We both thought it was pretty funny, actually–my shoe was flapping every step I took and I had to be careful not to trip on it.
After that, every time I stopped by at the JFD in the evening, I looked for Jerry. Everybody in that fire department is really helpful, but I remembered Jerry because of my shoe. He remembered my shoe too, because just about every time I’d go in there we’d have a bit of banter about whatever shoes I happened to be wearing that day.
And Jerry always knew the answers to all my reporter questions, too, and gave neat, organized answers. How many people were at the fire? How many trucks? What did you use to put it out? Any injuries? Is it totally destroyed? What caused the fire?
I was saddened to hear today that Jerry had passed away yesterday. I can’t say that I knew him very well, but I absolutely can say that he made me smile, more than once. He made my job easier, more than once.
While I never look forward to fires, I never minded going over to the fire hall, and part of that was because I knew Jerry was likely to be there, with both information and a quip about my (occasionally dubious) footwear.
I have since said goodbye to the shoe that prompted the initial exchange. I don’t even miss it.
I already miss Jerry Kainz, though–his quick smile, his knowledge and the ready way he shared them both. He made a difference to a great many people through his work with the JFD–saving homes, preventing property damage, saving lives.
But he also made a difference to me, even with just a smile and a helpful word.
Thanks, Jerry. Thank you.