Gerald Erwin Wedren, age 84, died on Sunday, May 31, 2020 at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Fla.
There was no one quite like him. His unique, irreverent and just-plain-absurd sense of humor, passion for family, and commitment to Judaism positively lit up -and occasionally inflamed- those fortunate enough to land in his orbit. He was a man of deep, unique integrity who treated others as equals with a warm, self-deprecating wit that inspired a rare combination of loyalty and tenderness (with a dash of consternation) in friends and family alike.
Gerald was born September 5, 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio to Hyman Chessin Wedren and Pearl Raline (Kleinman) Wedren. He was raised in Cleveland Heights with beloved younger siblings William (“Billy”) and Laura, who shared a remarkably close relationship with Jerry throughout his life.
Gerald proudly played football at Cleveland Heights High School then went on to study at Cornell University. Early on in his time there, Jerry, Billy, and Laura’s father Hyman suffered a fatal heart attack, drawing Jerry back home to become ‘the man of the house’ and continue his education at Case Western Reserve, where he graduated with a degree in Law.
Throughout life, family was paramount to Jerry. He was a Patriarch who not only took care of his mother and siblings, but became a father figure to nieces and nephews, and a mentor to children of friends. His greatest pride, however, was his son, Craig.
After graduating from Case, Gerald went to work for future Senator Howard Metzenbaum and Ted Bonda, joining their parking company APCOA in Cleveland.
During this time, he met and married Bonnie Marks (nee Paull). The couple moved to New York City, where Gerald worked in mergers and acquisitions with Jimmy Ratner, and where Craig was born. Soon after, the family relocated to Columbus, Ohio where Jerry was offered the position of State Securities Commissioner under Governor Gilligan.
Jerry and Bonnie divorced in the early ‘70s, Gerald becoming an unwitting Fathers’ Rights advocate almost before there was such a thing.
Throughout all of his varied business endeavors, Gerald practiced -and maintained a passion for- Law.
In the early 1980s, he became enamored with and eventually bought and ran “Little Tavern”, a legendary chain of gritty, Deco-era ‘slider’ joints in the Washington-Baltimore area. In his 60s Jerry, ever the eligible bachelor, was introduced by Sen. Metzenbaum to Bobby Gordon, who would be the final -and longest- love of Gerald’s life, the couple finding in each other perfect-fitting puzzle pieces until the very end.
Qualities which on paper might seem totally contradictory, made perfect sense if you knew Jerry. He was a serious businessman who measured success in dollars and cents, but put no value whatsoever on material possessions, status or glory. He had the very first car phone but never learned to use a computer or smartphone. He had a lawyerly critical streak that was outmatched only by his capacity for unconditional love, his love of a good laugh, and a ferocious allegiance to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
His politics were based on personal values and did not neatly fit into this or that category. He marched in Selma with lifelong friend and mentor Sen. Howard Metzenbaum but was generally skeptical about groups, gangs, mobs, parties and organized religions (excepting Judaism, of course).
His devotion to Israel was fierce, unwavering, and he held his Jewish identity with pride and emotion. He admired and identified with Israel’s toughness, resilience and independence. He gave regularly to The Jewish Federation, The Holocaust Museum, and Israeli security. Gerald served on the board of The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes in Washington, D.C. and later in his career sat on the board of directors for American Eagle Outfitters.
He was magnanimous and outgoing, striking up a conversation with anybody, anywhere; and was beloved by many, but only had a handful of very good friends.
Jerry’s final years were a struggle, following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Unlike his mother, however, who suffered and was taken by Alzheimer’s in the mid-‘80s, the disease never changed the essence of Gerald’s personality. He became sweeter, softer perhaps, but the charm never ceased, nor the jokes. During one of his final calls with Craig, a video chat, Jerry’s son commented “you look good!” Gerald’s swift reply: “That’s what the undertaker said”.
Gerald Erwin Wedren is survived by his loving son Craig Wedren, his daughter-in-law Meggan Lennon, and their son Lennon Wedren; his brother and sister William Wedren and Laura Bachtell; and by a slew of nieces and nephews who love him more than the moon and stars.
Gerald Erwin Wedren
Born September 5, 1936
Father, grandfather, uncle , friend
Sadly left us on May 31, 2020
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