Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Ah sweet mystery of life I’ve found thee

21st January 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

“Make it real!”

The first time I heard Jerome “Jerry” Thomas, Sr. say that in church before Sunday Mass, I did a double take, trying to assess the man and his utterance. But gradually, after that first encounter in June 2006, I came to understand that the saying was a part of his persona deriving from his days as a pioneering black radio/TV broadcaster in Fort Worth, Texas.

Although Jerry made quite a splash as a media personality, even to being inducted into the Texas Radio Hall Of Fame in 2008, he never lost touch with the little people with whom he mingled daily. Our Mother Of Mercy church member Betty Harris recounts how he invited her to run the coin toss with him decades ago at the church annual fall festival.

When Jerry shook your hand, he really pressed the flesh to the point where, staring into your eyes with a fixed gaze, his vise-like grip hurt enough to make you wince in pain.
“Make it real!” he must have thought, even though he did not say it then. His constant quest always seemed to pursue the conclusion, “Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee!”

This unending quest revealed itself in Jerry’s DJing at KNOK/970 AM and later FM in the 50s and 60s, designing social events for teenagers to be part of on weekends, hosting his popular “What About People” TV show in the 70s and 80s, co-founding the influential Fort Worth La Vida News, starting the Lake Como Theater Guild in 1960 and co-founding the Sojourner Truth Theater Center where he directed several plays.

Two days before 2014 was ushered in, Jerry left for the big radio/TV mansion in the sky where the Word of God is in charge of all media. He and Jessyl, his soul mate for 59 years, brought forth Jessica, Jerome Jr., Jeffrey, five grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

“Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee!” was pursued just as eagerly by Percy Page, Jr., the oldest brother of OMM Church member, Aaron Jerome Page. We had less contact with him because he belonged to other churches: Penile Baptist Church where he accepted Christ in 1986, Faith Family Non-Denominational Church and, finally, the Potter’s House under the pastorate of renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes.

A master electrician, Percy served well as a jack-of-all-trades at the Potter’s House where he was especially active in the media industry, hardly ever hovering around without his handy camera, quick to flash a smile at you and just as quick to coax one out of you. A factotum like Percy is one of the greatest blessings a church can have.

A beloved cog in his family machine, Percy was one of those family men to whom all instinctively turned when it came to family matters of any kind. Through him, everyone found solid values, unity and the camaraderie spawned by his evident zest for life, for hosting family gatherings, cooking, creating video memories and planning family vacations.

After Percy had transitioned to our Father’s kingdom on December 16, I made my first visit to the Potter’s House on December 21 where his homegoing service was held in one of the lesser chapels. Bishop T.D. Jakes was there to participate in the celebration.

Longtime friend Eleanor Montegue likewise pursued the sweet mystery of life with vim and vigor. I became acquainted with her over 40 years ago when her son Frank married Linda Rainey, a former student of mine at Xavier Univ­ersity in New Orleans.

Intelligent and alert, she conversed on many subjects and was one of relatively few women who delighted in going toe-to-toe in talk about sports, especially baseball. I recall our laughing about the amusing 007 allusion – in British accent – by one sportscaster when Barry Bonds was knocking the cover off the baseball: “Bonds! Barry Bonds!”

“Eleanor could really whistle!” my cousin Corinne “Cookie” Shannon said. And she had a beautiful voice to match her whistling. She recounted happily how she led the singing the last time she visited a nearby assisted-living apartment complex outside Sacramento.

Just as youth is wasted on the young, so do we spend the better part of our lives pursuing what song composer Victor Herbert wrote for the 1910 operetta, Naughty Marietta. “Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee. Ah! At last I know the secret of it all. For the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning, the burning hopes and idle tears that fall. For ‘tis love and love alone the world is seeking. And ‘tis love and love alone that can repay. ‘Tis the answer, ‘tis the end and all of living, for it is love alone that rules for aye.”

This lyrical, wonderful song comes from the mind and heart of an Irish-born, German-reared American whose life bubbled over with vitality, joie de vivre and emotion. The song transcends its obvious romantic, erotic composition, generating thoughts of the deepest mysteries of life itself based on the types of love, even up to benevolence/agape.

This article originally published in the January 20, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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