This past summer, the mystery field lost one of its most beloved writers, Jeremiah Healy. Jerry had not written a book for several years, and as short as memories are in today’s book world, I suspect there is already a new generation of readers out there who don’t know Jerry’s work. One of the things that always struck me about Jerry’s fiction was how keen his ear for dialogue was. He would mark places in his manuscripts with “SIC” frequently, presumably to make sure an editor or proofreader didn’t correct grammar or smooth any quirks in speech that he’d worked hard to get just right.This always seemed to me to fit with Jerry’s personality: He was someone who listened to people, who paid attention to what they said—and not just the quirks in their speech, but the content of it. He was interested in knowing what others thought, and he always paid the greatest respect to everyone: You didn’t have to be “a name” in the field for him to stop and chat with you. He made all of us feel that what we had to say was important. I experienced this firsthand. Shortly after I became editor of EQMM I was asked to give a talk at a writer’s conference in Chicago. It was all nuts-and-bolts stuff, not the sort of thing that would interest an established writer like Jerry. But he made a point of attending, standing at the back of the room for the whole hour. When it was finished, he waited patiently until everyone else had exited the room and then he approached me and offered an analysis of what had been good about the speech and a few tips on how to communicate better in future. What he said was right on the mark, but far more important than that, to me, was that he’d taken time he could have been spending much more interestingly to do it. I don’t think I ever sufficiently conveyed to Jerry how much his attention to a new magazine editor giving a first speech from a podium was appreciated. I wish I had. He made me feel that I mattered and I hope he knew, even during those years when he’d retired from the mystery scene, that he continued to matter—to so many of us.
Last week I received an e-mail from Jerry’s partner, the mystery writer Sandy Balzo, saying: “Our fellow mystery authors, Brendan DuBois, Andi Shechter, SJ Rozan, and her sister Deborah have found a way of commemorating Jerry’s work and life that I think he would have absolutely loved.”
She quoted Brendan explaining their choice of a charity for donations in Jerry’s name: “Besides his work as an attorney and an author, Jerry was a U.S. Army vet, and was also a lover of dogs. We have therefore reached out to a service dog organization in Maryland that trains dogs to assist wounded veterans, and they will be thrilled to receive donations in Jerry’s name.”
What a wonderful way to remember Jerry. Here’s the information Brendan conveyed about the organization:
“The group is called Hero Dogs, and is based in Maryland. Their website is listed below. They are an IRS approved 501(c)(3) organization and operate entirely on donations.You can donate via their website, or by sending a check to Hero Dogs, P.O. 64, Brookeville, MD 20833-0064. But *please* ensure either by writing on the memo section of your check, or using the form on their website, that you’re making this donation in Jerry’s name. That way, Hero Dogs can track how many donations come in, so that they can be used in some way to keep Jerry’s memory alive in years to come. Please donate what you can, and please share this link. Thanks to all of you who were friends or fans of Jerry’s.” Hero Dogs: http://www.hero-dogs.org/