A Life Lived: Jerry White was never at a loss for things to do or places to go

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Jerry White was a fun-loving person, prankster, and enjoyed model trains. That’s how Joey White described his father, who died Jan. 19 at the age of 80 following an extended illness.

Jerry, a long-time resident of Peters Hollow, was a native of Raysal, W.Va. “His father was working the coal mines when dad was born. They later moved back to Carter County, and a few years later moved to a small town near Henderson, Nevada, where my grandfather had a junk yard. While the family was living in Henderson, the Army was testing some of its atomic bombs and Dad got to see one of the big bombs go off,” said Joey.

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The family moved back to Stoney Creek while Jerry was in high school and he attended his junior and senior years at Unaka High School, graduating in 1956.

Jerry’s love for model trains dates back to the first Christmas after he and his wife, Minnie Ellen “Bo” were married. “Mom bought him a small train set for Christmas. I remember playing with it when I was four or five years old. Sometime after that he boxed it up and put it away,” Joey shared.

When Joey, an architect, began working with Reedy and Sykes, he learned that Steve Sykes’s father, George, was a model train enthusiast. Joey retrieved his father’s boxed-up train set from things stored in the basement and took it to George, who shined it up and got it into working condition. “The first Christmas that Joyce and I were married, we took the train to dad along with a new transformer and some new track, and his love for the little train was renewed and just kept growing,” said Joey.

From then on Jerry’s favorite pastime was visiting yard sales and flea markets, looking for train parts to add to his set. “Today, there are hundreds of small toys in his garage, which he bought by the boxes, just to get a train car or a piece of track to add to his set. While there are all kinds of gauges, Dad concentrated on the O gauge,” Joey shared.

Jerry’s model trains and track were displayed in a building above the family garage, which was initially built to house his small engine repair shop. “Dad enjoyed working on lawnmowers, chainsaws and other small engines. As his railroad grew, his shop was moved to the garage,” said Joey.

Jerry worked for a number of years at Mapes Piano String Co., retiring in 1998 after his wife died.

Jerry also liked to travel. “He and my younger, brother, Jason, have the Charlie White traveling genes. I don’t,” said Joey. “Like my grandfather, he liked to travel. I recall that two days after I graduated from high school, we loaded up the car and Dad drove to San Diego, Calif., to visit a brother living there. We visited five or six days and drove back home, taking the southern route. He would drive to Miami, Fla., a couple of times a year to visit a brother and to Alabama to see another brother,” Joey quipped.

Jerry was not at a loss for things to do. He enjoyed playing golf with his father-in-law, Stacy Hardin, and he and a cousin hunted ginseng. Jerry also enjoyed gardening and for a number of years grew tobacco and cane. “We grew cane and made molasses for seven or eight years. The molasses and tobacco helped pay my way through college,” Joey shared.

The molasses making became a community event and was enjoyed by a lot of people.

Jerry also grew a large garden, and was good at it. For a couple of years he grew a lot of corn — some of which he sold, and some he gave away. “In recent years his garden plots became smaller. For the past couple of years, it had been only a few tomato plants beside the house. The desire to garden was there, but his health wouldn’t allow it,” said Joey.

“My dad was a very adventuresome person. He was never afraid to try new things or to go to new places. He was also a very generous and caring person. He called all his caregivers “younguns.” When he died, I said, ‘he had two sons and hundreds of youngin’s,’” said Joey.

Today, the model train in the building over the garage is still. Dust has begun to settle on the little train that was and which came from numerous children’s toy boxes. But, the memories of the man and his toy train remain.

Like the song of old, Jerry White made a successful run. His advice: “From the cradle to the grave, watch for curves and hills and valleys. Never falter, never fail. Keep your hands upon the throttle. And your eye upon the rail.”