Monday, June 09, 2008
Jerry Churchill... He Will Be Missed
Jerry Churchill enjoying lunch in Oaxaca. Photo courtesy of Gerie Bledso.
Jerry Churchill at Aguascalientes.
It is with heavy heart that I regretfully report Jerry Churchill has passed on. Anyone who knew Jerry would tell you he was one hell of a driver and one to be reckoned with. Some might tell you he was rough around the edges not at all unlike men like John Wayne while others would tell you he was a real man's man who just loved racing. As for me I will miss him terribly. Personally I was lucky to have known him. There are a bunch but there are few moments that stand out that I would like to share. When the Coyote Convoy left Texas, crossed the border and headed south we all hung together. It couldn't have been any easier to keep a eye on other rigs probably because of Churchill's trademark bright red truck and trailer. After one of the Pemex stops Jerry, crew and family pulled up next to my rig and opened the door to their rig. A few minutes later Gerie Bledso went inside. Wondering what was going on Will and I checked it out as well. When we got to the door of his trailer the first words out of Jerry's mouth were, "Come on in and have a sandwich. We'll race later."
One afternoon after a long day of racing we were all parked in front of the Hotel Emporio in Zacatecas when Jerry walked up, leaned up against our car. It was late and for the most part very few people were around when he began talking to me like we were old friends. The first thing he asked was, "Did your Co-Piloto find a nice gift for his wife?" Then he went on talking about La Carrera and how he loved every moment of it. He said, "This is really something, isn't it?" That evening I saw a special side of Jerry Churchill, one that will forever stick in my mind and what I saw was a man really living what he loved to do most in life.
Jon and I were blessed to be able to run up front many times near Jerry something we felt privileged to do. It was always easy to find our place in the line-up each day since all we had to do was look for his beautiful car. In the following photo we were lined up right behind Jerry as we passed thru the starting arch for the day of racing. That afternoon when we arrived at the next city square he came over and said, "Just wanted to tell you that is one bad ass set of wheels ya got there. For a first timer you guys have done an awesome job. You can be very proud." Coming from a veteran, especially Jerry Churchill, hearing those words really meant a lot to us.
The morning we were getting ready to run the speed stages that included Mil Cumbres Jerry put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Now take it easy when you get to Mil Cumbres kid. Right when you think you've got a handle on things it will jump up and bite you on the ass." That evening he congratulated us on winning Mil Cumbres and walked away in a no nonsense kind of way.
Last but not least was the morning back in Texas when we were all getting ready to leave our hotel. Jerry and family were having breakfast but he still took a moment to ask, "Need any help getting ready or are you all good?"
These are examples of what kind of a man Jerry Churchill was. He was going to race you hard but he did everything in his power to make sure you had a good time too.
God's speed Jerry Churchill.
From North American Director, Gerie Bledsoe
Our friend and Carrera racer Jerry Churchill passes away last Saturday from complications arising from surgery. His presence will be missed.
I admired Jerry above all for stepping up to help the Mexican nurse, Lupita Hernandez, who lost both of her legs in 2003 in a Carrera racing accident. Jerry made sure that Lupita got a little check from us every six weeks. For Jerry and Lupita, we certainly want to continue that support. His commitment to her health and future illustrated a big heart under that tough exterior.
For Jerry La Carrera Panamerican was the Big Show and like many of us old timers, an autumn passion. He, Jim, Judy, Muriel, his beautiful yellow Studebaker and crew will be greatly missed this year in Tuxtla Gutierrez.
I will forward the information about the memorial service in Detroit just as soon as I receive it.
Here is the official notice.
Eugene Gerald (Jerry) Churchill, son of Helen Bernice and Randolph Churchill. Born Detroit, Michigan, late of Fort Myers, Florida. Beloved husband of Doris (Boyle). Father of Randy Churchill and Gwen King of Windsor, Ontario. Adored brother of Muriel Kay Weaver of Rio Rico, Arizona. Dear uncle of Clayton Smith, South Woodslee, Ontario. Dear stepfather of Joey Boyle of Monroe, MI , Kevin Boyle of Fort Myers, FL and David of Windsor Ontario. Grandchildren, Randolph, Jennifer, David, Ryan, Joey, Megan, Travis, Andrew, Bridgette, Dillon.
Gerald was a prominent member of the business community and founder of Churchill Transportation of Detroit. Jerry had an extended and varied racing career which covered many countries. Longtime participant in many racing series including ARCA and Nascar. Jerry was a avid captain and recently received his 100 ton vessel license. Jerry loved adventure.
Cremation will take place on Monday June 9th in Fort Myers, FL. Arrangements for a memorial service in Det roit are incomplete.