Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
January 12, 2010, by Kristin Buehner

J. J. Gerard documented life with his camera

MASON CITY — Longtime Mason City photographer J.J. Gerard was always looking for the next perfect shot, those who remember him said Tuesday.

Jerome Joseph Gerard died Tuesday [January 12, 2010] in Mason City at the age of 96. Known for years as a children’s photographer, he began what would be a lifetime interest in photography with the birth of his daughter, Barbara, in 1937.

“He started taking pictures of me in 1937 and he went from there,” Barbara (Gerard) Clark, of Tiburon, Calif., said.

Employed as a shipping clerk at Leigh Portland Cement Co., Gerard began taking pictures as a hobby, entering the profession full-time in 1948.

He came up with the idea of photographing children in their homes in 1941, his daughter said. “Nobody did that,” she said.

He also took photographs in the Prairie Style home that doubled as his studio, at 108 Fourth St. N.E. [The house, known as the F. M. Norris House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, January 29, 1980.]

A self-taught photographer, Gerard photographed people, landscapes and animals. Babies and wildlife were his favorite subjects, Clark said.

In 1977, he added a sideline to his business selling “River City Scenic Plaques” featuring Gerard’s landscape photos of Mason City and North Iowa.

His photographs were often displayed at the Mason City Public Library and won awards at the local and national level.

A photo of his beloved toy poodle, Kandi, won first place in the International Library of Photography North American Open Amateur Contest in 1998.

While serving in the merchant marines during World War II, Gerard was surprised to see a photograph of a football player he had earlier entered in an Eastman-Kodak photo contest. It was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Everywhere I go in town, people tell me about my father,” Clark said.

He retired in 1981.

Monsignor Joseph Slepicka of Clear Lake knew Gerard in his later years and administered the last rites to him a few weeks ago.

“He was a guy that was quick on his feet,” Slepicka said. “He had a lot of energy. He loved Mason City. He was a real professional.”

He was also known for his love of Honda motorcycles, of which he owned 40 in his lifetime.

A native of St. Cloud, Minn., J.J. and his wife, Lorraine, moved to Mason City in 1937.

His lifelong interest in photography continued during his years as a resident of Homestead Assisted Living in Mason City, where he served as official photographer.

Note: J. J. was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, March 6, 1913.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2013



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