Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

John, Jean, Jerry - old friends, new souls

Wick's World


John, Jean and Jerry — my old friends are now new souls. Of course I am referring to the DeRungs family. Only Jean lived to what is commonly referred to as a ripe old age. You can read a wonderful tribute to this amazing lady written by Eddie Jane Pelkey in last week’s issue of the Star-Gazette.

Her husband, John, died very shortly after he retired from the profession where he was known as “John the Barber.” John was loud, witty, humorous and a friendly, all-around nice guy. Everyone in town knew John and if they didn’t, they would be friends soon after meeting him. As Moose Lake’s postmaster, I would await each morning in feverish anticipation of hearing John’s booming voice greet whoever happened to be picking up their mail at the time. When John was in my lobby, there were no strangers in the post office.

A few months after John retired, a heavy wet snowstorm hit Moose Lake. John failed to heed the advice of every cardiologist in the Northland. If you have a heart condition, the size of your snow shovel should be a tablespoon. He died that morning of a massive heart attack.

On that fateful day I sat with his son, Jerry, down at the old Muni. All I had to offer was my condolences. Jerry got his comfort elsewhere. Jerry was the man around town with the camera and notepad, reporting newsworthy events as the owner/editor of Moose Lake’s Star-Gazette.

For the past couple of decades before he died, Jerry would always tell his close friends and co-workers he would never live past 50. To be perfectly clear, he never once said, “I will die before I am 50,” or, “I will never make 50.”

He always said, “I will never live past 50.”

Jerry died a few days before his 51st birthday and in one way or another, he lived each year to the max. This is the reason I chose to write about this family today. Now that his mother, Jean, has passed on, I felt the need to articulate the event I could not speak about while she was still alive. It happened when only Jean and I were at Jerry’s side early in the morning when he left this earth.

Shortly after Jerry took his last breath, I turned to Jean and said, “Well, Jerry always said he would never live past 50.”

She turned to me wide-eyed and said, “Why did he say that?!”

It was too late to take it back. I had put my foot so deep in my mouth it would have required an obstetrician with a set of stirrups and huge forceps to pull it out. I had forgotten the lesson all of us should have learned at some point in life — never assume anything.

I assumed Jerry, at one time or another, had said to his mother, “I will never live past 50.”

He said it to everyone else. I was so shocked by what I had done; to this day I do not know what my reply was. I know I mumbled something and hugged her. She let it stay there in the hospital room and so did I.

Jean and I remained good friends right up until her passing a few days ago. I am sorry for hurting her at such a tender moment, but I know she was the most accepting and forgiving person in Moose Lake. To Jean’s granddaughter and Jerry’s daughter, Samantha, know that I loved your family.


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