Jerry Brown: Fifty Years a Lion and Still Roaring
Lion Jerry Brown is part of a long, proud line of past EDLC presidents. It is a matter of pride in this club that in its ninety year of existence, there have been no repeat presidents, and Lion Jerry’s year to lead us was 1985.
Let’s look back to ’85 for some perspective. President Ronald Reagan and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger addressed the Lions International Convention in Dallas that year. Of our Club’s officers, including the eight board members of what was then a men-only Club, only Lions Jerry Brown and Jim Mueller survive today. Lion Vic Bender, who passed away last year, was immediate past president.
Lion Jerry, who is approaching his eighty-third birthday at this writing, has been an EDLC Lion for over fifty years and he has a wealth of memories of the good times and good works of our club. While one might expect a man of Lions Jerry’s years to nostalgically cling to the past, he believes that admitting women to the club was the best thing that ever happened to it. Women, he says, are willing to work hard and hold important leadership positions in the club. Lion Jerry also believes that, while the club cannot raise the kind of money it once did, we are “doing more” than ever, in terms of service projects and activities.
So how did Lion Jerry come to be a member of this fine old Club? To begin at the beginning, he was born in Pendleton Oregon in 1931, during the Great Depression. His family had migrated from North Dakota in 1929. Lion Jerry was the second oldest of ten children, nine of whom are still alive today. His father taught school, then settled into the real estate/life insurance business for the rest of his working life.
The family first re-located in Salem, then moved on to Eugene in 1935. Lion Jerry graduated from St. Mary’s High School. He met Patty, his wife of sixty years, at a college football game. Patty is also a member of the the Eugene Downtown Lions Club
Following high school, Lion Jerry started college at the U of O, but was drafted in the middle of his sophomore year and served in the U.S. Army. He saw action in the Korean War and when he returned home, he and Patty were married.
Although Lion Jerry returned to college, he never completed his degree. Instead, he took over the insurance part of his father’s business and eventually developed his own company, and he continued to run it until his retirement.
Lions Jerry and Patty gave life to six children, three boys and three girls, including a set of boy/girl twins. They are the proud grandparents of thirteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with another on the way.
Jerry’s history as a Lion goes back to his years in JC’s. As he grew too old to remain a member, he asked a friend to sponsor him for Lion membership, and he has been with the club ever since.
Like all our “old Lions,” Lion Jerry can tell some entertaining tales of wild times in the early years. For example, he tells of a farmer, Ralph Latham, who would occasionally bring a pig to a meeting! Lion Jerry also recalls current member Lion Ralph Robinson’s proclivity to intentionally drop platters on the floor to noisily disrupt meetings. These meetings at the Red Lion hotel, currently being demolished, were the scene of some spirited “food fights”! Once, when Lion Jerry was serving as Tail Twister, he fined a lumberman ten cents for being late to the meeting. The man was incensed and loudly protested the fine. Jerry held his ground and doubled the fine!
On a more serious note, Lion Jerry recalls the deep pockets and huge generosity of Lion Vern Hahn, the man who endowed the Hahn Fund from which our club still draws funds today for charitable work. According to Lion Jerry, Lion Vern would always challenge the club to donate for particular causes by promising to match their donations from his own pocket. Another thing Lion Jerry recalls about the old days was that the club had a very good representation of downtown businessmen, many of whom showed willingness to serve the club with both money and time.
Still, Lion Jerry Brown is not a man who lives in the past. As noted, he believes we are a better club for having included women and he is impressed by how much we are doing today, despite diminished financial resources.
Today, Lion Jerry remains an active member of the club. He still enjoys the activities, attends meetings regularly and helps out where he can. His fifty plus years of service have benefited many people and he is a treasured member of this fine old club.
Reported by Lion Jim Newton