They have yet to construct the building that could hold all those whose lives were touched by Jerry Stokoe.
That is the first challenge for any celebration of the life of the community giant who tragically passed away this week, just weeks after the death of his wife.
The second obstacle is how to put into any human expression, any outward gesture, to properly sum up whatever it was that filled that man’s heart and soul.
I have wrestled with that one for most of a week and am open to any suggestions.
Pam Martin of the local domestic violence task force may have summed it up best as we chatted Monday.
“You never saw that man do anything that it wasn’t for somebody else,” Martin said.
Jerry, and I am going to find it impossible to use Stokoe so bear with me, would ask Martin if she needed anything anytime they passed in everyday life.
“I could go to him and say I had a client who needed to get food and here he would come back with some coupons from Piggly Wiggly, not another word,” Martin said. “He was just a good man.”
That is just the surface of the bottomless well of outreach that was Jerry Stokoe.
He was a smiling, light-jacket clad dervish testifying to the better nature of man, never needing to raise his voice because his passion filled every nook and cranny.
Big, small, Jerry was a force behind so many drives, so many events, aimed at helping those less fortunate, the elderly, the children.
And, in turn, to charming levels, so uninterested in personal attention or accolade he might blanch were he to see these words this week.
My favorite hymn as a youngster was “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
I imagine Jerry at the helm of those troops, those volunteers who joined in the cause, and it was always, always a deeply important cause to Jerry.
“He really was a saint,” said Mary Jo Walsh, who worked with Jerry on several of his projects.
Start with the bounty that was the holiday outreach.
Jerry had plenty of help, plenty of volunteers, and we’ll get to them in a moment, but he was the fuel, the bedrock faith, the soul, of the work to feed the hungry on Christmas and Thanksgiving.
In the most recent years, 800-900 households had a warm meal they would not otherwise have on those special days.
The behind the scenes work, lining up the food, the cooking, the plating, the transportation (and, my, don’t you think Jerry and Prophet Billy Dixson are having a fine conversation right now), that was Jerry.
Constantly moving Jerry. Seemingly always on his way to something or somebody to assist.
This is how I came to know Jerry some two decades or so ago.
The newspaper was integral to him to disseminate the directives to his troops, the call, if you will, to arms.
And he was some kind of fastidious about how the information was provided, how prominent, how often.
Then, even more particular about ensuring that every volunteer’s name was properly spelled and listed in the newspaper afterward.
If an individual was missed or misspelled, brother, we made sure it was correct the next week.
Of course, as technology arrived Jerry tried to give me a break.
Let us just leave it that while a great man, Jerry was less than spectacular in spelling and grammar.
His jottings took a bit of cleanup.
So, to receive it in a form of copy and paste, well, if we want to talk about inside baseball about newspapers, this was a whole lost easier.
Jerry just couldn’t get the hang of it, consistently frustrated.
He finally got it and I always knew the email was from Jerry because instead of a name or some familiar slug line, is would have an ampersand (@).
We always shared a good chuckle, though Jerry being Jerry he was horrified that he might have imposed on another.
Thing was, those holiday outings, as impressive, as uplifting as they were, happened to be just part of the DNA of Jerry Stokoe.
Raising money to buy children of need coats or gloves, raising money or donation for local food pantries, helping with utility bills, there was no detail too small for Jerry to lend a hand to someone in need.
He also did not care much about demographics beyond a need; north and south, black, white, Hispanic, Jerry, if he could be, would be there.
And he did it all as one of the most self-effacing, humble, spirit-filled human beings I, and many others around this county, have ever encountered.
I just always marveled at the sheer energy, the unflagging optimism of the man, always greeting people with a smile, kind word and often a “God bless.”
“He helped a lot of people, fed a lot of people,” said County Commissioner Phil McCroan. “We lost a good man.”
Rest in peace, Jerry. You left gaping footprints.