Gerald “Jerry” Jeffers Sr., 84, a Wampanoag native, and affectionately known by many as the “mayor of Chappaquiddick,” peacefully died in the early evening of Oct. 23, 2017, at Massachusetts General Hospital, surrounded by his family.
Jerry was born in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 25, 1932, to Charles Newman and Gladys Jeffers. He returned in his early years to his ancestral home of Chappaquiddick. He attended and graduated from the Island schools, after which he enlisted in the Army and served in the Korean War as a private first class. He was subsequently stationed in France and then in Carlisle, Pa.
He married E. Mae Martin of Harrisburg, Pa., and their family grew to include four children, Christina, Geraldine, Lolita, and Gerald Jr. He returned with his family to his beloved Chappy in 1969.
Jerry was a man’s man, entrepreneurial to his core, and possessed of a fierce work ethic. Over the years he came to be known as a car mechanic, school bus driver, Chappy Ferry deckhand, volunteer fireman, deputy sheriff for a number of years in the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, and an accomplished businessman. He established the Chappy Service Station, and expanded it to include the seasonal Chappy Store, and the year-round Chappy UPS pickup for the added convenience of local residents.
He could be found on the property, usually under the hood of a truck or carrying an engine with his brute strength, distinctive blue Dickies pants laced with the grease of a mechanic’s expertise, fingers oily dark with the proof of hard work and grit, disarming customers and friends alike with his ready smile and Vineyard tales.
While he held a number of official titles, it was the “unofficial” ones that endeared him the most. Known for his characteristic and infectious charm, he would frequent many homes and businesses across the Island, his signature mischievous chuckle always brightening up the room and leaving behind a warm and playful mood. It seems almost everyone knew Jerry, or Mr. Jeffers, and of the wide expanse of epithets given to him, his favorite was doubtless “Angel.”
Ever the public servant, “the mayor” was known for plowing the narrow Chappy Streets, towing someone off the beach, picking up visitors walking from the ferry, and driving children to school — continuously making lifelong friends with yet another generation of Islanders. Tirelessly willing to help, share a story, or tell a joke, his acceptance of you was often displayed by his humorous ribbing and playful pranks. The more you were teased, the more you were endeared to him, and his favorite moniker, “you big dummy,” could often be heard by his closest family and friends.
If you didn’t know Jerry, well then, you just didn’t have a true representation of Martha’s Vineyard. Up-Island and Down-Island, he carried with him a particular Chappy flavor that was timeless in nature, transcending all age groups and sociocultural dispositions. He was one of those men who could not be measured by ordinary means. Living by his own set of principles, and undeterred by others’ dissension, he presented a rare breed of the builders’ mentality, infused with his own moral compass. Down to earth to his core, he fished the waters, hunted the land, and gathered the fruits of the earth. The “mayor” knew his special island better than anyone, and if he shared that knowledge with you, you were blessed and uniquely privileged. In a world of baseless fame and vacuous recognition, Gerald Jeffers earned every bit of his legendary status as a pillar of Martha’s Vineyard, and over the process of time grew from humble beginnings to become a hallmark of the Island experience. He touched the lives of too many to count, and will forever be remembered as a true Vineyarder. We will all miss you terribly, Jerry.
He was predeceased in 1989 by his wife, Pastor E. Mae Jeffers, and is survived by his three daughters, Christina Jeffers of Harrisburg, Pa., Geraldine Jeffers of Boston, Lolita Jeffers Beauboeuf of Medford and his son-in-law Emmanuel Beauboeuf; as well as by his son Gerald Jeffers Jr. of Georgia and his daughter-in-law Ella Jeffers. Additionally Jerry is survived by his grandchildren: Nefititi Jette of Aquinnah, Semia Jette of Boston, Asha Jeffers of Boston, Kailoni Williams of Boston, Elyse Beauboeuf and Michael Beauboeuf of Medford; Clarissa Green, Kyle Green, and DeAnna Green of Mableton, Ga.; and great-grandchildren Rachaya Lane-Jette of Aquinnah, Adjei Jeffers-Bell of Boston, William Mayberry and Iesha Mayberry of Aquinnah, Rachel McDonough of Boston, and Marquette Warren III of Medford. He will also be missed by his longtime friend Cynthia Schilling of Vineyard Haven and her extended family (especially her grandson Tad), as well as countless friends and acquaintances all across the Island.
Visiting hours in Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road in Oak Bluffs, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2, from 4 to 7 pm. His funeral service will be celebrated in the Old Whaling Church, Main St. in Edgartown, on Fri., Nov. 3, beginning at 9 am. Burial will follow in the New Westside Cemetery, Robinson Road in Edgartown, with military honors provided by the veterans of Martha’s Vineyard.
Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guestbook and information.