Covering the federal beat for many years puts you in touch with lots of super-smart, super-dedicated people from all over the place. If you are lucky (as I have been) lots of them also turn out to be very nice people too. And you get to be friends. Which brings me to the reason for this column: G. Jerry Shaw. Jerry was, is, maybe always will be a household word in much of the federal community. If you don’t know the name, you should. There’s a good chance he may have touched your life in some way. Jerry died last week after a long, cruel illness.
Listing Jerry’s achievements would embarrass him. Plus we don’t have enough space. But even the short list isn’t very short. There is a lot. He was first a husband and father. Loved his grandkids. Was very active in his church. After he retired from his law practice, he studied and became a deacon and was very active in his adopted community, Lewes, Delaware.
While Jerry wasn’t the type to build monuments to himself, he left a lot of them. With original partners Bill Bransford and Tom O’Rouke, he built a second-to-none employment law firm. For years, Jerry ran the highly-regarded Federal Dispute Resolution Conference. Despite that confusing name, its August conventions are the place to be for feds in the HR and EO world.
Jerry was one of the founders of the Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund (FEEA), the feds-helping-feds charity. It helped people out after the Oklahoma City bombings, after Hurricane Katrina and in hundreds of smaller localized disasters.
Jerry also helped setup the Senior Executives Association and was its general counsel for many years.
Jerry served in Vietnam. He was an Army helicopter pilot. One of the “dust off” guys who went in and rescued the wounded and transported them to a field hospital. About as dangerous as it can get. He seldom talked about it, but a friend confirmed that Jerry had been shot down twice. Think about that. Dangerous work. And so typical of Jerry that in the middle of a bloody, nasty war he would be rescuing people. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the nation’s top military honors. After leaving the Army, Jerry worked for the Internal Revenue Service in D.C., where he met his future law partners O’Rourke and Bransford.
Jerry was a 20th-21st century Renaissance Man. Truly one of a kind. Like all obituaries, this is a very short, flawed version of a very long, active and rich life.
There was one tiny chink in Jerry’s armor: He had a great sense of humor, but he told the worst jokes in the English language. Not off-color, just awful. Nobody could touch him in that department. Nobody wanted too. But we laughed, because we knew he enjoyed them. And because he was Jerry.
What else to say? Jerry always said to keep it brief. So, he was an amazing, imaginative, hardworking super guy. Period.
Jerry’s funeral is Monday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He asked that anyone who wanted to honor or acknowledge him in any way send a contribution to FEEA.
So, speaking for lots of people, so long Jerry. Well done!