I am the youngest of three, I have one sister and one brother. My father died in 1969. In June of 1971 my mother remarried and we relocated to Toledo, Ohio, which has been home ever since. Ironically this was one of the best things that ever happened to me. In August 1974, I began teaching myself how to play acoustic guitar by learning The Sleep Song by Graham Nash and then Heart of Gold by Neil Young. I still play today and am amazed by what I've learned. Patience and persistence pays off!
In 1976, I graduated from Whitmer High School. I soon went to work for The A&P Tea Company, starting as a bag boy. After one month I was promoted to casher and the newest member of the night stock crew in a 24 hour always-open store. In 1982 the rust belt economy hit Toledo. All of the A&P stores were closed and several of the other competing grocers were closing as well. I knew then it was time to return to school. Laid off, little did I know that this would be another situation that would again be one of the best things to happen to me.
In December of 1984 I graduated from the University of Toledo, Community & Technical College, with a 3.25 G.P.A. I studied data processing and learned how to program small business computers, mini-computers as they were called then, using a cryptic language called RPG on IBM hardware. The 'know-it-alls' kept telling me it was a dead-end choice. I have no regrets. Even though the economy is always challenging, by keeping my skill set current, I've been able to maintain steady employment.
In January of 1985 I began my career as a Junior Programmer for Commercial Aluminum Cookware, the makers of Calphalon Cookware. After three months I was offered a position as a Junior Programmer with the consulting business Software Alternatives, Inc., an IBM Business Partner. This is where I learned the business of being a billable consultant, and the fact that college, which I thought was hard, was nothing compared to what the real world had in store for me. I soon realized that this career I had was something I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams. That made me realize it was time to quit my ugly habit of financing the tobacco industry.(click the link to see how I quit) On February 27, 1987 I gave my last cigarette away and have haven't touched one since.
For four years I worked as a consultant in a wide range of industries including glass manufacturing (Owens Illinois), food processing (Campbell's Soup), and a local retailer that in 1989, became my next employer.
The F.W. Uhlman Company was founded in Bowling Green, Ohio during the Civil War. By 1989 they had grown to operate 35 department stores in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. By 1996, when mega-stores (Wal-Mart) and corporate merger mania crept into small town USA, my position became a victim of the new economy. Uhlman's was still profitable in 22 locations where a Wal-Mart was located within two miles. That put the company on the radar of a huge retailer in Houston, TX that was in the process of buying up small town department store chains. In March 1996, I bought my first house. In August 1996 the Uhlman's buy-out was completed and I was looking for a new job. Last I heard, over twenty of the stores taken over in the buy-out were no longer in operation.
Fortunately I'm (still) involved with the local IBM midrange computer user group and was its president (in 1996). That's where I made contacts that led me to AKTion Associates, Inc., another local IBM Business Partner. I was hired as a senior programmer, and worked with the distribution and manufacturing unit of the business. Here I learned how to support package software, and continued programming as well as doing custom software modification analysis and estimates for customers. It was during this period, that as an officer of the local computer user group, I was introduced to an attractive and smart lady who just moved back to Toledo after spending 15 years in south Florida. She joined the user group and soon volunteered to take over the membership and newsletter duties of the user group. We became internet friends, often chatting on AOL's then-new IM feature. She IM'd me and asked me to go to Ireland but I declined. I IM'd and asked her to go to Alaska - and she said okay! We shared concerns about the failing health of our parents. We found comfort in our friendship.
On April 6, 1999 we had our first 'real' date - Thai food and wine at the Bangkok Grill. But 1999 was a challenging year work-wise. Can you say Y2K? I spent much of 1999 on the road doing work for two customers in Chicago. Mary & I continued to see each other, not really moving in any direction romantically, just sharing dinners and friendship. In June her father passed, and it was quite a hard time for her. Later that year, Mary asked me to join her for a night out at the local symphony. I agreed, but had to cancel because I was under the weather. That day, out of nowhere, Mary stopped by my house with home-made chicken noodle soup. What a nice gesture.... A few days later, we were having dinner and she agreed to be my date at the company Christmas party. I think this made 'us' official. On New Years Eve, 1999 (the big night because of Y2K), Mary was singing downtown for the First Night celebration/festival. My band was playing at a New Years Eve party in the suburbs. We went to both events together. At midnight we shared our first kiss. It took nine months but was definitely worth the wait.
While at AKTion, I also managed to pass my first IBM Certification test which qualified me for the title of IBM Certified AS/400 RPG Programmer. After Y2K, the IT economy started to slow down. My travels to Chicago were completed. I was now commuting almost daily to Hillsdale College, working on a project of securing their computer systems for internet access. On Valentines Day 2000, after dinner, just minutes before 11:00 pm, I proposed to Mary, and she said yes! My friends and family collectively said 'Oh Shit'.
On June 3, 2000, the Big Day arrived. Mary & I were married at St. Martin de Porres church. I had never even heard of the place until I met Mary. Later I found out it was the same church my mother went to in the 1930's, before she married my father. (It was called St Ann's then.) We went to northern Michigan for our honeymoon. We stayed in Elk Rapids near Traverse City, and spent a day on Mackinac Island. When we got back, we moved Mary into my tiny two bedroom bungalow. We began the hunt for a new castle. Just when we had given up our search, we found it. Funny how things happen sometimes. After returning to work from the honeymoon, the Hillsdale College project was winding down.
The economy was really beginning to slow. By December I was again laid off. Just married, a new house and no job. Fortunately, Mary was working at the University. She was wonderful in her support. It took me three months to find a job. I spent those three months working at home on a freelance MS-Access project for Mary, and collecting unemployment checks. I was finally hired as a help desk/computer operator at a local tier 3 auto parts supplier. They told me I was over qualified for the job, but I knew that any job was better than no job. There were days where I literally had to keep myself from falling asleep. While at this job I tested for and passed my second IBM Certification test - this time for the title of IBM Certified AS/400 RPG IV Programmer.
Happy just to be working, I continued looking for jobs that were better suited to my skills. After three months, a job appeared in the local paper. It was less than two miles from home, in an industry that (I think) will remain recession proof. I found a new home, as a project leader for The Toledo Clinic I've since gained my third IBM Certification as an IBM Certified AS/400 RPG ILE Developer. I'm now getting into things like embedding SQL into high level languages and doing true integrated language environment development. I was also appointed as our Lotus Domino and Notes administrator. With the continued challenges to today’s technology and the fact that it is a windows world, I’ve been charged with the task of analyzing the options for modernizing those old green screen RPG 5250 applications. The career never stops. I just pray that I can keep up with what the IBM & Micro$oft world keeps throwing my way.
To ensure the career never stops, I decided that one way to prove that my skills are still appreciating, I decided in the summer of 2006 to resume my studies at The University of Toledo. Since I now work in the heath care industry, I chose to study health care related topics relative to information technology. This included studies in areas such as Healthy Aging, Alzheimer's and Dementia (a potential/pending plague among baby boomers), Health Care Law and Ethics (I now have a newfound respect for lawyers!), Health Care Informatics, and Problem solving in Health Care. There are substantial challenges to our health care system and each of these courses provided significant benefits to my understanding of what I can do to hopefully make things a little easier for the benefit of society. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in May of 2008, graduating Cum Laude.
This was a wonderful experience and I’m grateful to Mary for her encouraging me and supporting me in this endeavor. It was also during this period that Jen and Chris were married. Almost a year later Chloe was born, and six weeks after that her uncle Dan and his bride (another Jenn) were married. Busy times indeed, but hey - it sure beats the alternative!
All work and no play would make Jerry a very dull boy. So here are some of the things I've done in terms of travel and hobby.
I do own golf clubs, but don't claim to be much of a player.
Travels for pleasure include trips to:
- Jamaica in 1979 (following the blizzard of '78).
- Alaska in 1992 and 1995.
- Mary and I made it to Alaska in the summer of 2003.
- Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Jacksonville for those winter warmups.
- Seattle and Chelan Washington for summer getaways.
- There's the occasional trip to Toronto, Washington DC & Gettysburg.
- New York City and Chicago.
- Not to forget most of Ohio and the entire length of Interstate 75 too.
Work has taken me to
- Kansas City
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- St. Louis
My "guitarsenal" includes: