The Chelan Cafe was the scene for the first of what will be several celebrations of the life of Jerry Ceis who passed away on January, 9. Friends and fellow Seafair Pirates recounted stories of Ceis and his many adventures at the event. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE OR SEE THE GALLERY BELOW THE STORY.
SLIDESHOW: Life of Seafair Pirate, sailor, friend and free spirit Jerry Ceis celebrated at the Chelan Cafe
For the people who gathered in the Ebb Tide Room at the Chelan Cafe in West Seattle on Sunday Jan. 27 to honor the life of Jerry Ceis, it didn't matter that the room was filled to overflowing.
In fact it was the way they wanted it.
Ceis, who died after an illness on Jan. 9 was a West Seattle original. The son of well known community activist Margaret Ceis and brother of former Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, Jerry went his own way in life.
That way was often in a boat, he was a very accomplished sailor, and frequently with a drink nearby, as many at the Chelan attested.
Ceis was also a former Seafair Pirate and a large contingent from the Ale and Quail Society, donned in red blazers were on hand to share stories about their friend.
Stories, according to several friends, were a fundamental part of Jerry's life. He had dozens of them, usually outlandish, and always told with humor and sometimes flourishes that were added as they were retold.
One story shared by Glen Utgaard concerned a 17 year bet he had with Jerry. Utgaard was a teacher at West Seattle High School for 27 years. "I started teaching there a year after Jerry graduated and got to know him," said Utgaard. "About ten years later we were down at the Beach Broiler (where Salty's is now) having more than a few drinks. Somebody from West Seattle High didn't even make the starting pole vault height. Jerry said, 'I could do that!' so I said, 'Here's a hundred dollars that says you can't' so we went up to the gym that year and he took my hundred dollars!"
Then for the next 17 years the bet was on. The height varied getting up to 12 feet 4 inches when Jerry was in his 30's. "It was very good because he was overweight and the poles only go up to about 170 pounds. He was over 210," explained Utgaard. "We'd get together in the fall and establish the height for the coming spring. Then on the last day of school we'd go up to Hiawatha Park and he'd vault. The winner would give the money to a barmaid afterward and she'd let us know when it was gone." This bet grew into side bets but they had the same rules. The winner had to give the money to the barmaid. "Sometimes we had so much money we couldn't spend it," laughed Utgaard. As Jerry got older the winner of the bet shifted. "The first seven years my pocket book was light, the last seven years helped a lot," he said chuckling.
Ed Hoose, better known as Stumblin' Jim, said he knew Jerry for 45 years. "Jerry and I were like best friends," he said, "I miss mostly Jerry' stories. I was always able to tell them a little bit better. He kept forgetting the details! I heard them so many times." Hoose said that their friendship had a special ritual. "Without him asking I used to give him a $20 bill every time I saw him. He was a hell of a guy."
Musician Tim Turner came to the event to play and led the room in a toast. "We love you Jerry," he said and many in the room echoed the sentiment.
Mike Yadrick and Terry Thomas talked about Jerry's skill as a sailor, with Thomas recalling that Jerry would sometimes take commissions to sail boats back from different places such as San Diego or Hawaii. "I don't think he ever had a regular job," said Yadrick.
Another close friend, Doug Williams who knew Jerry close to 40 years, said, "He was one of the more intelligent people I've ever met, and he was very well read. He was one of the best friends I've ever had. You could rely on what he said. He was ethical, period. I enjoyed a lot of what he did. He was probably one of the best entertainers in the world."
This was only the first of several events that will honor Ceis.
The official celebration of life/ memorial service for him is taking place Saturday Feb 2 at the Alki Bathhouse with the actual Memorial taking place at 1:30 pm.
A gathering will follow at Christo's (at 2508 Alki Avenue SW) beginning roughly at 4 pm according to the organizers. There are also other plans in the works to spread his ashes in the waters of Puget Sound, where he spent many hours.
You can find many tributes to Jerry Ceis on the Facebook page for his high school class, West Seattle High School Class of 1966.
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