Delores St. George, wife of Gerald “Jerry” St. George — who died April 6 of COVID-19 complications at age 81 — says her husband would have asserted “he did not deserve” an obituary published in The Seattle Times, so far from his beloved Yakima Valley.
“That would be Jerry,” she says. “He did not like to be in the spotlight. He liked other people to get the accolades.”
That description suits Mr. St. George’s extraordinary, 55-year run as a career educator, during which he worked tirelessly to bring out the best in thousands of students while remaining humble about his role in their success.
That half-century-plus of service as a teacher and administrator at several schools — followed by 15 years as a supervisor of student teachers for Central Washington University, his alma mater — doesn’t reflect the fullness of Mr. St. George’s active commitment to others. From the days he coached youth sports, while he was still a minor, to his later leadership in Kiwanis International, the Special Olympics and Children’s Miracle Network, Mr. St. George often found himself everywhere but at home.
Yet he was always with his family when it mattered, says Delores St. George, who was introduced to her future spouse when she was a teenage competitor for the title of Miss Wapato. Mr. St. George bought a raffle ticket from her in exchange for her enthusiastic applause during his music act at the Wapato Harvest Festival. They married in 1958.
“He was a wonderful man, and education was his whole life,” she says. “From the moment I met him, he wanted to be a teacher. He wanted to work with kids.”
Born in Yakima, Mr. St. George was raised in Mabton, in Yakima County. Excelling in both academics and athletics, he graduated as Mabton High School’s Class of 1957 salutatorian. He received his Master of Education in 1964, coaching Little League Baseball along the way.
He taught, coached, and was appointed vice principal or principal at multiple public schools in the Sunnyside and Yakima districts. A stint as principal of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Sunnyside was followed by a long stretch as adjunct professor at Central.
Described as fun, funny and quick-witted, Mr. St. George enjoyed performing in community theater musicals. He involved himself in every extracurricular activity his three daughters, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren participated in.
He was also seen as a father figure by many whom he taught and helped.
“He used to say, ‘Every student may not be good, but there’s some good in every student,’” says Delores St. George. “He would look for the strengths in a person rather than something wrong.”