Dozens of local people were saddened to hear the news that beloved author, actor, playwright, blogger, and storyteller Jerry Cowling passed away on December 26, 2020, after a brief hospital stay. The cause of death was sepsis as a result of a gastrointestinal infection. Cowling is survived by his son, Joshua of Spring Hill; his daughter, Heather Cowling Dobkowski; son-in-law Anthony and grandchildren Olivia and Liam Dobkowski of Wappingers Falls, New York. He was pre-deceased by his wife of 44 years, Janet.
Cowling was a true Renaissance man of many talents and interests. He was a native of Gainesville, Texas, but unlike the stereotypical Texan, never bragged. Jerry graduated from East Texas State University with a degree in journalism and English and spent ten years working for newspapers from Kingsport, Tennessee to Dallas, Killeen, and Temple, Texas.
Jerry authored five books covering a range of genres and topics – from an Alternate History entitled Lincoln in the Basement; a dark novel centered around a Native American (Sins of the Family) to a biography of a pioneer in the music industry entitled James Brown’s Favorite Uncle. He also wrote a play based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (What in the Dickens Happened to Scrooge?).
Not only was Jerry a writer, but he was also an inventive storyteller. He would often appear at local venues to tell stories or impersonate famous people like Mark Twain.
His son, Joshua stated, “My dad taught me compassion towards other people. He was the most compassionate and caring person I’ve ever met in my life.”
Joshua also inherited Jerry’s irreverent and mischievous sense of humor. Once the two were chaperoning a group of high school students on a trip to England, Wales and Ireland. On a tour of London, when passing by the statue of the Duke of Wellington, the tour guide asked if anyone knew what Wellington was famous for. Without hesitation, Joshua replied, “Yes. He beat the c…p out of Napoleon.”
Later on the same tour, the guide, when the bus passed a statue of Henry the VIII, asked if anyone knew what the monarch had a problem with, Jerry remarked that he was known for a particular social disease. The guide observed (referring to Jerry and Joshua), “Oh, my God! They’re related!”
In relating this anecdote, Joshua remarked, “Neither of us were born with proper filters.”
The many people who I talked to agreed about these two traits, as well as others - humility, a positive attitude, and his willingness to mentor people.
Jerry edited my latest book and also my current novel that will be published this year. He always gave me constructive criticism where it was needed and a pat on the back when I wrote something well.
Ellen Paul, a member of the local Unitarian Universalist Church that Jerry attended remarks, “Jerry was a guy who had a very deep well of humor. He saw the funny side of just about everything. We’re going to miss that gentle humor.”
Irene Keim, comments, “I was always amazed at Jerry’s insight. His long work in journalism taught him a lot about people. He married that with kindness and it was always amazing how he found understanding and value in people he met. In his storytelling, he connected to children so instinctively.”
Janet Neff remarked, “The first time I met him was on Zoom. He was such fun, so kind, and such a gentleman. For me, this is a lesson in fleeting time because I thought, ‘I can’t wait to know Jerry better and now he’s gone.’ It’s just mind-boggling to me.”
John St. John, commented “Jerry never seemed to get upset or angry. He was always on an even keel. He never complained. It’s very unusual to meet people like that. He was someone you could share your life with.”
Bob Keim remarked, “He and I would have discussions and I was always impressed by the depth of the intelligence and education Jerry had. He knew so much about the world. I’ll miss that.”
Angela Tsoumaris stated, “His beautiful and kind spirit lives on in his stories and in the memories of his sweet smile. He was a special person with a generous heart and soul.”
Andy LePage, “He understood the art of listening. He always asked great and deep questions and he exhibited a wonderful enthusiasm for life and people.”
Linda Prescott commented, “Jerry was such a nice man. I attended an event at the library where he introduced the characters in the book by becoming them. He had a wonderful gift of making you feel you were part of the story and could interact with the characters. He was insightful, enthusiastic, and very entertaining.”
Jerry’s last blog was dated December 24th. It’s entitled “Happy Holidays.”
“I am taking the rest of the year off to have fun for the holidays. When I return after the first of January I’ll start serializing a new novella A Night in a Bell Tower/ A Life in the Country. It’s my version of Hunchback of Notre Dame with special emphasis on how we treat people because of their appearance. In the meantime, you may go through the archives to catch up on my other writing. Since this is the season of giving, I’d appreciate any donations to defray the costs of maintaining my blog. Thank you to my loyal readers, and I wish you happiness in the new year.”
Local DJ Marvelous Marvin, in referring to Cowling, stated, “His writing had an unfailing moral compass and a warm intelligence that I loved.” Marvin summed up the impact Jerry had and will continue to have for future readers: “Old newspaper reporters never die. They become words that go on forever.”
Brewer Memorial Funeral Chapel in Brooksville is in charge of funeral arrangements, but details have not been finalized.