Jerry Kasala, 90, passed away November 21, 2019 surrounded by his family, in the very home he skillfully crafted with his own hands some fifty years prior. He was born July 17, 1929 at the family homestead in Roy, MT where he spent his formative years. Jerry attended Coal Hill School until fourth grade and then moved to a ranch in Moore, MT. Hard work was instilled at an early age as the family livelihood was dependent on chickens, cattle and wheat.
Despite the hard times, Jerry found the time to cause some mischief, once slapping the hindquarter of his sister’s horse, startling it and causing it to run out of the barn, knocking her off when her head hit the door jam.
Life on the farm wasn’t for Jerry and he skipped his senior year of high school, opting to join the United States Marine Corps and obtained his GED, while enlisted. Jerry enlisted with falsified documents at age sixteen and served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater, which encompassed the end of World War II. He also served in the Korean War from 1950 to 1951. He took up boxing while in the Corps and claimed to have never lost a bout due to his hard head. Jerry lived life on his terms with stubborn conviction, but always upheld the three Corps Values: Honor, Courage, Commitment.
He met the love of his life at University of Montana, Claire Kulawik, and was always quick to point out that she was the prettiest girl on campus. Jerry made use of G.I. Bill and earned a B.S. in business administration and a B.A. in law.
Jerry was a man that wore many hats and began one of his first jobs as operating engineer at Minuteman Missile Silos near Lewistown, MT. He would go on to work every facet of flood insurance adjusting with multiple agencies; as a Pilot Catastrophe adjuster traveling the country with Claire by his side in their minivan, always eager for a new challenge. His final career change came when he started his own construction company. On the jobsite he was assisted by Bob Parker, a true friend who stood by Jerry through thick and thin, always willing to lend a helping hand long after the final job was done.
Jerry took hard work to another level, the job was finished when perfection had been achieved and it met the “Jerry Standard”, though some concessions were made when the sun set. Jerry dressed like a drywaller; he wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t ripped, full of holes, stained with paint, or caked with drywall mud. There was at least one occasion where lunch was paid for by a caring stranger, who thought that he and his grandson Brian were homeless judging by their attire. He had a closet full of nice clothes for special occasions, but sweatpants or hand cut jean shorts were far more practical in case some work might arise that needed to be done. Nothing was thrown out, everything had a purpose, and his garage would have made a potentially hazardous challenge even for ‘American Pickers’.
There was always more work to be done, but late in life Jerry took up golfing as a hobby he could enjoy with his grandsons and granddaughters. His eyes would light up and a rarely seen smile would magically appear on his almost youthful face whenever his granddaughters Gracie and Madison would visit, eager to drive him around in the golf cart. His swing wasn’t pretty due to his damaged rotator cuffs from years of drywalling, but he had a wicked slice and a knack for losing count of his strokes which kept things light and everyone guessing.
Jerry had one final adventure left in him when he accepted the invitation to join one of the few remaining “Honor Flights” for WWII veterans. He was accompanied to Washington, D.C. by his grandson Brian and the duo viewed all of the memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifice of him and his fellow servicemen. The highlight of the trip was visiting the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and having his picture taken with his grandson capturing the multigenerational bond of two Marines.
Throughout 65 years of marriage Jerry never faltered in his love for Claire. However; he did have life-long love affairs with Diet Pepsi, Dairy Queen XL strawberry milkshakes, and banana splits. Jerry believed that his proudest accomplishments in life came in the form of putting all five of his children through college. He was a longtime member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church at Creston in his later years.
He could be a tall, intimidating, stone-faced war hardened Marine to some. But “Big Jerr” or “Pardner” as he was affectionately known had a heart of gold, overflowing with compassion and generosity for anyone in need and those who knew him best. A man of few words, quick with his temper but even quicker with compassion. Jerry was genuine, honest, selfless, and a man who will greatly be missed by the countless lives he touched.
Jerry is survived by his sister Doris, wife Claire, daughters Linda (Fredenberg), Kim (DePinto), Sandy, Vicky, son Jerry Jr., grandsons Brian and Kurt, and granddaughters Gracie and Madison. A celebration of life will be held in the spring of 2020. Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.
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