The themes were clear: he empowered many, accomplished much, but never wanted credit for any of it.
Hundreds of friends, family, and Crabs fans gathered at the Arcata Community Center on a typically overcast Sunday afternoon to honor the memory of Crabs boardmember and former president Jerry Nutter, whom the Times-Standard recently dubbed "The Man Who Saved the Crabs."
Nutter was the man who, in 1995 when it was announced that the Crabs would be packing it in, rounded up a group of local baseball lovers and found a way to save the team. He drew upon decades of experience as an executive with the YMCA, put together a plan, and saw it carried out.
"Jerry's genius was in his ability to bring people together and help them identify their mission, and then how to get them to make sure they get all the credit for what the did," said John Fesler, a fellow Crabs boardmember and friend of over five decades who was the first to speak at the memorial. "He was a results-oriented person."
The memorial featured the music of the Crab Grass Band, two beautiful a capella songs from Eliot Dancy, several former Crabs, and speeches from a handful of friends. As one speaker noted, perhaps it was fate the the memorial service was held on April Fools Day, because Nutter was always cracking little jokes, known as Nutterisms, and always had a slightly goofy smile on his face, whether he was at a board meeting or the ballpark. The lighthearted attitude belied an intensely focused, hardworking man who did everything he could to help those he loved, and that included the Crabs, for whom he gave everything until the day he died.
The last speaker was Jerry's son, Matt Nutter, who modified Lou Gehrig's famous "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech, with his daughers and a few former players behind him in support. He closed by talking about how, whether it was after a day of elementary school, or after his first career college start — a win against a couple of guys named Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson — the first thing Jerry wanted to know was, "Did you have fun?"
"With all of Jerry's talents he would be the first to tell you he had a lot of help in everything he did. He knew that his successes were because of you."
"What Jerry gave to me, and what he gives to others, is the ability to see what they can do, not what they can't do."
"He was playing his banjo and I said, 'That's the best instrument ever, you can't play anything but a happy tune with it,' and he said, 'I know, ain't it great?'"
"At 50 I got that dream (of being vice president of the Sacramento RiverCats), from the foundation that Jerry and Karen gave me when I was 18."
"I've never met anyone in my life who accomplished so much and had so many talents, yet never sought credit for anything he accomplished."
"If we could all just be a little bit like Jerry, this world would be a better place."
"He was a man whose twinkling eyes and raucous laugh put life's little bumps and potholes in perspective. What I wouldn't give to hear that laugh today."
"Boiled to its essence, what Jerry gave to this community in the Crabs is what he gave to many communities across the country."
* The Crabs will honor Jerry Nutter at the Annual Dinner at the Arcata Community Center on June 1st and at the ballpark on Saturday, June 16th (Jerry's 75th birthday). June 16th will be suspender day at the yard in honor of Jerry.