Jerry Pero (1946-2020)

Jerry Lee Pero passed away peacefully on Oct 8th, 2020. Jerry is survived by his wife Karen Pero, his two daughters Kari Pero (Luke) and Tami Nichols (Josh), sister Judy Jackson (Rick), brother Jim Pero (Santa), many nieces and nephews and countless friends. Jerry was born in Salem OR, December 16th, 1946 to parents William and Maxine Pero. Right after graduating from North Salem High, he decided to enlist in the Marines; it was 1966 and he was 19.He honorably served his tour of Vietnam from November 1966 until December 1967.By day he was a Remington Raider, and he stresses it was a manual Remington typewriter. By night he was the company’s Radio Telephone Operator. In those days, anyone over 6ft tall could almost plan on slugging around a radio. He survived his tour of Vietnam without a scratch but lost many friends. He was in the Marines until 1968 but was a jarhead forever. This was the beginning of his lifetime of supporting veterans.

 

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On Nov 11th of 1982 Jerry and seventy other Oregonians celebrated the dedication of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. After this awe-inspiring event, on the plane ride home, Ben Stanley said to Jerry, "we can do this", build an Oregon Vietnam Veterans Living memorial. Five Vietnam Veterans and the parents of another Oregonian who was killed in action bought in on the idea. After 5 years to the day, on Nov 11th, 1987, their vision was realized. A living memorial was dedicated for the fallen, not forgotten Vietnam Vets; a place for all to mourn, pay tribute and heal; a site of solace and life.

He dedicated his life to fulfilling the dream of bringing the black granite of the Himalayas to be the Oregon reflection of the wall in Washington, DC. It was more than the names on the wall, it was for the human beings and the family and friends behind those names. Jerry was the driving force of the miraculous effort to accomplish this in stone, pathways, landscaping, a bridge and a fountain. He spent most of his free time at the memorial maintaining her beauty, picking up the cigarette butts, making that granite shine, and just being there to support any veteran that needed someone.

Jerry was a humanitarian, patriot, Vietnam vet, a soldier’s soldier, generous, philanthropist, family historian, photographer, world traveler. He was humble, selfless, a great man with visions he always brought to life. He was never without his camera around his neck, "there will be two flashes" was the warning you got before you were immortalized in one of the hundreds of albums he created. If he met you once, you were a friend, and he was always there for anyone that needed it. There wasn't a “geedunk” (snack stand) that he didn't visit, and God forbid there was something healthy that would give you "scabosis".

He served as vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial Fund’s (VVOMF) board of directors during the construction years and served as president since the Memorial’s dedication in 1987.  From 1984-92, Jerry was on the Governor’s advisory committee for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. From 2011-2013 he volunteered with Meals on Wheels, serving hundreds of meals to those in need until he was physically unable to drive due to McLeod Neuroacanthocytosis Syndrome. Jerry's heart for others extended to others with McLeod Syndrome, resulted in the donation of his brain and other tissue to research.

What Jerry could not fix in life, he secured with duct tape. We will remember his smile, his laugh, his crazy erratic dancing, his incessant picture taking, constant snacking. He was a husband, father, friend, neat guy, our “number one”. We will honor Jerry's love for life by celebrating his in the most bodacious way. He made us all smile! And his smile will remain with us forever.  We dare you to check out the photo below - taken at the 2016 NA Symposium at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor - and not smile at Jerry.  He's the one in the yellow shirt in the back with his hands raised.

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