It was a full house at the Feb. 20 funeral mass for Gerry Jaski, 79, who passed away peacefully at his home in Tallahassee with his wife, Mary Lou Rajchel, and his rescue dog Bones by his side.
Many of the mourners at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church knew Jaski from his years as general counsel at Florida State University. Jaski served under three presidents from 1978 to 1997, and is remembered by several generations of university leadership inside and outside Florida as a lawyer’s lawyer and a significant contributor to the 20th century push to make higher education more accessible to kids who weren’t rich.
Law was a second career for Jaski. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and M.Ed. in Counseling from St. Louis University, and started professional life as a guidance counselor at Weber Catholic High School. The school had been founded in the 19th century and reflected the Chicago neighborhood where Jaski grew up, steeped in the language, food, customs, and church of his grandparents’ native country, Poland. Jaski later served as director of placement, counselor and instructor at Barat College before shifting gears at the University of Miami School of Law, where he graduated with honors in 1969.
Before coming to FSU, Jaski practiced in Miami with Shutts and Bowen, and later served as University of Miami legal officer and director of placement.
Somehow, Jaski found time to exercise his considerable gifts as an actor and musician. He was a soloist and member of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church choir for many years, and performed in FSU’s noted summer theater program and elsewhere in some of the most beloved and challenging roles of the American musical theater, including Emile de Becque in “South Pacific” and Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“His rich baritone was well suited for many musical performances as well as courtroom closing arguments,” said Deborah Getzoff, an attorney in the Tampa Bay offices of Lewis Longman & Walker, who delivered a moving eulogy authored by Jaski’s widow.
Of the many comments posted to Jaski’s on-line memorial guest book, this one perhaps best captures his essence: “Friend, mentor, teacher, conversationalist….You touch my heart, my mind and my soul. Thank you for being such an extraordinary person who was willing to share if we were willing to listen. Love you Sir.”
Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant. Column courtesy of Context Florida.