NORMAN — I remember the first time I met Jerry Laizure. He was strolling through the newsroom one afternoon, took one look at me and said, “Who are you?”
I was the newest employee and hadn’t quite gotten around to all of the introductions. I told him my name and what I was hired to do. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. That was Jerry.
Another freshman encounter with Jerry was when I asked him why my computer was working on a different operating system than it should. I’d thought maybe he’d been tinkering around on it.
Instead, he said that he had no clue and probably no one else in the office knew how to switch from one operating system to another. When I replied that I knew how and that I had already fixed the problem, he gave me that half smile, another shrug and walked away. But this shrug was different, for some reason. Even though I didn’t really know Jerry that well yet, I knew, at that very moment, that Jerry Laizure thought I was OK. I had earned his respect.
He was hard to get to know, but when you did, you were a friend for life. I remember one Christmas coming to work, only to find a gift on my desk. I wasn’t expecting anything from coworkers, so you can imagine I was pretty excited to see what was inside the colorfully wrapped package.
To my surprise, it was a child’s princess crown and magic wand toy. I laughed at the odd gift and fashioned it around the office for a day. Jerry seemed thrilled that I adored the gift so much. Later, I questioned the meaning of that gift. Did Jerry think I was a diva princess or did he just simply think I was a girl who liked something bilgy? I think I asked him that question once and, in true Jerry style, he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
Jerry taught me everything I know about taking a photo. He encouraged me about a year ago to plunk down a large chunk of change on a Nikon D5100. “Just go out and shoot,” he’d always tell me. And I did. The more I used that camera, the more I realized I had a new passion. I doubt I would have ever had the courage to try photography if it hadn’t been for Jerry’s encouragement. I know I’ll never be as skilled in the photo business as Jerry was, but every time I hit that shutter button, I think of one of the best photographers I’ve ever known.
As many of you know, Jerry died in December. I still have a hard time not picking up the phone and calling him about something I’ve heard on the police scanner. Although, usually it was Jerry who communicated first when it came to police business. What I wouldn’t do to receive one more text from Jerry Laizure going to the scene. I still haven’t been able to remove his phone number out of my speed dial list.
On Thursday, Jerry was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. A long overdue induction, if you ask me. I know if Jerry were here, he would have accepted that honor wearing a Hawaiian shirt, his signature piece. I wish he was here so I could shake his hand and thank him in person for what he’s not only done for me, but for so many photographers that he took under his wing.