Visitation at Funeral Home
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home
314 E 2nd St.
Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Old Leland Road
Leland, Mississippi, United States
Obituary of James Decell Gerald
Jimmy Gerald's life was book-ended by upheavals across the globe. Born on Friday, December 13, 1940, as the world lurched into World War II, he died in the early hours of March 23, 2020, untouched by but in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. James Decell Gerald, Jr., was born to be the teller of tall tales that delighted friends and family across his seventy-nine years of life. Born the first child to Carolou Henry Gerald and James Decell Gerald, Sr., Jimmy spent his early life close by the Mississippi River in the picturesque Delta town of Leland. In Leland, the vast cotton fields out his back door, Deer Creek, the nearby Air Force flight training base, and a coterie of imaginative friends, gave him a childhood rich in small-town adventures and a ready audience for his unique sense of humor. Indeed, friendships formed then, particularly with his Class of 1958 classmates, lasted to his last moments on earth. During his time in Leland, he was known as a scrappy baseball player, determined football fullback, trombonist in the school band, James Dean-style actor in school plays, and possibly most memorably, a member of the classic rock n roll band, The Bop Kats. A much in demand party band, he and buddies, Larry Chandler, James Crippen, and Joe Frank Corollo, among others, entertained crowds across Mississippi and Tennessee. One trip gave them the rare opportunity to visit with a young Elvis Presley at the back fence of his newly acquired home Graceland. Jimmy was a bigger than life mentor to his younger siblings Tommy and Carolyn, filling their world with wonder. His answers to their many questions never had a simple response, his myth-swollen version of truth being much more memorable than bare fact. This interpretation of the world impacted the lives of his own children and grandchildren. Typical of Jimmy's way in the world, he dropped everything to help care for his young cousin Robert Heritage during his recuperation from the tragic automobile accident that had taken the life of Robert's sister, Jimmy's beloved cousin Cynthia. Across his adult life, Jimmy pursued a variety of careers, all of which he showed a natural talent to learn and excel. He worked for Brown and Root as a welder in Texas, first constructing oil refineries, then later, Atlas ICBM missile silos in the closing days of the Cold War. Indeed, much later in life, he learned to embrace the internet when he found sites dedicated to this unique aspect of history. With the winding down of the missile silo phase of his life, Jimmy landed a job as night manager for the San Marcos, Texas, Holiday Inn, a calling he thoroughly enjoyed that taught him skills he would use to great advantage later in his life. While on this job, he lived in the nearby charming German community of New Braunfels, a town he returned to annually for years for their Oktoberfest. Jimmy and family returned from Texas to his hometown of Leland where he worked as a highly commended collections agent for Deffenbaugh Finance. A promotion took him to Cleveland where managed the firm there. Soon, however, an opportunity came his way that lead to a new life. Calling on his earlier experience, he joined with a group of doctors who bought and updated a motel, which they reopened under the Holiday Inn franchise. Jimmy excelled as the manager of this operation. Here he formed a lasting friendship with Alabama entertainer JoJo Liles and hosted country music stars Porter Waggoner and Dolly Partin. While managing the Cleveland Holiday Inn, Jimmy had an encounter that deeply impacted his life. One of his long-term guests was an FBI agent who was stationed temporarily in town, working undercover in a drug investigation. Jimmy served as the only social contact this person had for the several weeks he was sequestered at the Holiday Inn. When the agent later died under mysterious circumstances in a Memphis Hotel, Jimmy felt compelled to go into police work, intending to achieve the rank of detective. This led to several years working the beat with the Cleveland Police Department, achieving his goal of detective, he did collect many wild stories which he added to his repertoire of tall tales. From there Jimmy was hired by First National Bank where he served as a loan officer and security officer, pulling on his past experiences to shape both of these duties. Of course, Jimmy collected many stories while serving the bank. There is for instance his oft-repeated story of "Not No Natural Cat." More apropos to our current times however, is one of his favorites involving a client who was behind in his loan payments. The gentleman had little understanding of how interest was applied, to say nothing of late fees. The old guy was a favorite client, so Jimmy patiently went through all the details as clearly as he could to help the gentleman understand. Jimmy's office was temporarily adjacent to the janitorial supply closet, which had inadvertently been left open. Ending his explanation, Jimmy asked, "Now, does that all make sense? Do you have any questions?" The guy, Jimmy realized, was gazing intently into that supply closet. "Yes," the gentleman responded earnestly, "How much do you charge for that toilet paper?" James "Jimmy" Decell Gerald Jr., 79 passed peacefully of natural causes at his home in Alabama surrounded by those he loved dearly. He was preceded in death by his father James Decell Gerald Sr and mother Carolou Henry Gerald. He is survived by the his brother, Thomas Henry Gerald of Lompoc, CA; sister, Carolyn Gerald Swartzwelder of Metairie, LA. Twice married, Jimmy is also survived by four adult children: son, James Decell "Jimbo" Gerald lll of Ellisville, MS; daughter, Cynthia Gerald Freeman (Brian) of New Albany, MS; son, David Kelton Gerald of Tyler, TX and son, William Carey Gerald (Jennifer) of Hackleburg, AL. Also, he is survived by thirteen grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Visitation will be held 1:00 - 4:00 P.M. Saturday March 28, 2020 at Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home in Clarksdale, MS. Graveside service will be held 2:00 P.M. Sunday March 29, 2020 at Stoneville-Leland Cemetery with burial in Stoneville-Leland Cemetery. Meredith-Nowell Funeral Home in Clarksdale, MS is handling the arrangements.