So long, Jerry

Jerry Weaver, longtime Evening Sun city editor and farm reporter, passed away today. RIP.

I Tweeted that Thursday afternoon as soon as I read the e-mail from Doug Wilson telling me that Jerry had died at the ripe old age of 92. And at the instant the Twitter feed updated on our website, the irony struck me. Jerry Weaver wouldn’t have given a Tweet.

Jerry Weaver started at The Evening Sun in 1955 – 13 years before I was even born, and half a century before anyone ever dreamed of Twitter, or the Internet, for that matter. Jerry was as old school as journalists come – I’m pretty certain that he never even used a computer during his tenure with Chenango County’s Hometown Daily Newspaper. When I told Frank Speziale about Jerry’s death this morning, he envisioned him in the crowded and smoky newsroom on Hale Street, banging out stories on his trusty typewriter.

Jerry retired from his full-time duties at The Evening Sun in 1982, but by the time I started here eight years later, he was firmly ensconced as the paper’s agriculture reporter – and even in retirement, probably working harder than anyone else. That’s how I came to know Jerry, through his weekly visits to the office to drop off his copy (always typewritten, always on newsprint) for the Farm page – usually a feature story or two about a local farm, and his much-revered column on local ag issues, “Second Cuttings.”

I must confess it was a few years before I understood what ‘Second Cuttings’ meant. Jerry handled all things agriculture, and I was happy to let him do it. I recall him admonishing me for running a picture of a Jersey with his story on Holsteins. Who knew? Jerry schooled me, and Evening Sun readers for decades, in both the basics and the nuances of Chenango’s agricultural community. His efforts to raise awareness of farming issues through the newspaper were recognized many times throughout the years – from the 4-H to the Farm Bureau to Soil & Water Conservation District to the SPCA ... and, lastly, from his beloved Chenango County Fair.

I think we’ve regained a good foothold on covering the local farm scene in the last couple years, but after Jerry stopped writing for the paper in the early 2000’s, I almost gave up. An icon in every sense of the word, no one could hold a candle to Jerry’s knowledge on the subject, nor would they earn the esteem to which Jerry was held by those in the business. And while my reporters and I love to troll around the Chenango County Fair looking for stories (usually on the midway or in the beer tent), Jerry spent the entire week, it seems, under the roof of the livestock barns.

As I wrote when Jim Wright passed away in March, they really broke the newspaper mold after Jerry. Old school, yes, with their typewriters, press cards and nose for news, but more importantly, compassionate, driven and fiercely dedicated to the job.

Jerry was quick with a joke, handy with a Polaroid and could sell cheese to the cows themselves (I can’t tell you how many pounds of horseradish cheddar I bought from Jerry over the years through the county’s Dairy Promotion Committee).

When I took over as editor all those years ago, I asked Jerry if there was anything I could do for him. “I think I’ve got the hang of it by now,” he joked.

I think I’ve got the hang of it by now, too, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to know, and to learn from, a true master of the craft like Jerry Weaver. He will truly be missed.

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