Frequently, we really don’t appreciate the significance of situations in life until years later. Such was the case when we established our new home in Castle Valley back in 1976. The Ehlers were nearly the first in the valley back in those days, and Jerry and JoAnna introduced their friends from Valley Center, California to our valley. Ultimately many came.
Jerry was spontaneous and unpredictable. At least that’s the way I saw it. He was fun-loving, friendly, and boisterous—certainly not in a bad way—but nonetheless impulsive and considerate. He and JoAnna often invited us on drives to interesting places in the valley and surrounding mountains. This was a great escape for us boys.
The Ehlers at that time were a family of girls about my age. As the father, Jerry ruled the roost. His daughters were obedient and realistic; nevertheless, we had great times together and participated in many enjoyable activities as a group.
Jerry seemed to be the one who organized fun throughout our community, such as the famous Fourth-of-July picnics. The first year we held that celebration, I think it was just the Ehlers and the Stuckis up at Miners Basin in the La Sal mountain range. But every year following, the celebration turned into a community-wide activity that brought together all the residents in the valley, which still continues today.
Jerry shot from the hip. I loved that about him. He was an artist and his appeal for spontaneity was evident. It sprung from the canvas and influenced his choices and dictated his direction. Frequently, when we were on work assignments or delivering messages from our parents, we were invited to go on drives up in the La Sal mountains. These excursions became treasured memories for a young boy and fun escapes from the hard work back on the farm—the fact that I went on these day trips with a car full of girls also helped—Cori, Deone, Heather, and Angelique at the time, if I remember correctly.
JoAnna is the perfect complement to Jerry. She is pensive, soft spoken, and patient—everything Jerry wasn't—and he adored her. That was obvious. So the artist in Jerry was tempered by the consistency and stability of JoAnna. I think he knew that as well as anybody and wisely appreciated it. He served many years in the local church clergy. We even had our Sunday meetings on his property in the early days.
Jerry would leave the family periodically to return to California to make money. He could spend a couple months in California painting and make enough money to last them six or more months before having to return. Once he offered his services to some new hotels in Moab, and I had the chance to see some of his work. He saw the beauty all around us and painted local geography and nature’s wonders to capture the good in the world.
Even if only for a moment in the grand scheme of things, we are all better off because we knew Jerry.