Saturday, September 23, 2006

Jerry DeBono R.I.P.

His is not a name a lot of people know.  He wrote mostly for television in the 60’s and 70’s, although he started in the late 40’s.  Episodes of Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby M.D., Police Woman, Quincey M.E., Hunter and others were written by him.

Marijane Meaker (Vin Packer, M.E. Kerr) was the first working writer I ever met, and Jerry was the second.  The moment we met we were instant friends.  The thing was we made each other laugh like crazy.

At that time I wanted to write plays.  He convinced me I should try television.  So once a week he gave me and Megan Terry (Viet Rock) lessons.  I don’t remember a lot about it except that he had us do scripts for Lamp Unto My Feet.  It was a Sunday program for children, I think.

Neither Megan nor I became TV writers.  But not because Jerry wasn’t a good teacher, he was.  I think it was because we neither of us wanted to write for TV at that time.  I did later on.

After awhile he moved back to California where he was from.  We saw each other over the years…he would come east and I would go west.  In the 80’s he stopped writing and became a teacher of English in a high school. 

We lost touch for awhile. Then one day there was an email from Jerry in my In box.  I was so excited.  He’d gotten his first computer and had found my address. From then on we never stopped writing each other. He was retired and was occasionally directing college musicals.  But he wasn’t writing. 

During that first year of our email life we learned all about each other in a way we never had before.  Childhoods, teens, early adults.  Mothers, fathers, friends.

He told me he was so proud of me, of what I’d accomplished.  And he read all my books.  He didn’t like all of them, naturally.  But he really got a kick out of my latest two.

Our email correspondence got him thinking about his life in a way he never had before and he thought he’d like to write a novel.  But he wasn’t sure of the form and wondered who the hell would want to read a novel about his life. I told him I and many others would. So he started.  I tried to buoy him up when he got discouraged. I don’t know how much that helped but Jerry kept on writing.

When we reconnected I learned fairly soon from a mutual friend that he had non Hodgkin's lymphoma and things could go south at any time.

A few weeks ago they did.  He ended up in the hospital.  I knew nothing of this until I got a call from him.  He told me where he was and that all he wanted was two more months because he thought he could finish his novel in that period.

The next time we spoke he didn’t seem to know we’d spoken before and he didn’t make much sense.  It was the pain medication.  In the hospital he had a course of chemo to see if they could give him the time he wanted.  But it didn’t do anything except make him sick.

So last Sunday he went home.  Two friends kept me informed of what was going on.  Yesterday when I came home from the movies I found out that he’d died.  It went very fast and I’m glad for that.

Needless to say he never finished his novel, but he wrote a lot of it and most of all he wanted to finish it.  Once a writer always a writer.

l miss him terribly.


Debra Young said...

My sympathies, Sandra. The loss of a good friend leaves a hole in one's life. I hope your memories of the wonderful times shared give you solace.

mapletree7 said...

How sad. Maybe youcould volunteer to look at his work see if it's a publishable form. Get it out there.

chicksinger said...

I found your post after doing a Google search on Jerry's name, as he was on my mind today. I'm one of the kids he taught in L.A. in the 80s, and even though our correspondence since reconnecting via e-mail was sporadic, I find myself missing him greatly these days. I've got some things bouncing around in my head that I wish I could bounce off him.

Thank you for this. We heard about his death through his former colleagues who are still at the high school, but I didn't know anything about his last months. I guess it's good to know that once the decline started, it was relatively fast. But damn if I don't want to read that manuscript now.

bobroc1 said...

I decided to Google Jerry as I was planning to visit the area in which he lived and was sorry to read of his passing. We were college friends and I had recorded and saved some original music he had written and performed and was going to surprise him with it. It sounds as if he had a good and productive life.

kchoo said...

I too was one of his students at Cleveland Humanities Magnet; he was an absolute inspiration. I wish I had reconnected earlier so that I could tell him how important he was to me. Thank you for your kind words and memories.

Joli said...

Another of Jerry's students from Cleveland Humanities High here, circa 1990, his very last year. Thank you for this memory of a great man and wonderful teacher - I wished I knew then the extent of his work as a TV writer. I also wished I connected with him before he passed to let him know how much he meant to me as a surly 17 year-old dressed in black from head to toe. Jerry introduced me to Cole Porter back then...and I knew we were kindred spirits.