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Remembering Jerry Johnson by Rachel Placitella, Esquire

Remembering Jerry Johnson by Rachel PlacitellaJames J. Johnson or “Jerry” was my client. He died from pleural mesothelioma yesterday. Jerry’s disease was caused by exposure to asbestos while working as a ceiling installer at construction sites in New Jersey. He was an honest, respectful, hardworking man who was still working when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 75, not because he had to, but because he wanted to contribute. Jerry had a youthful appearance, was strong, robust and full of energy. He hiked regularly, rode his bike and loved golf.
As part of his treatment to combat his mesothelioma diagnosis, Jerry had grueling surgeries, chemotherapy and hospital stays in the few years I knew him. He never complained. He said he was in the fight of his life and he was not about to back down. Jerry continued to bike in the early days of surgery and treatment. He also hiked in the forest. Eventually, he lost his energy and was forced to use a walker. He never gave up fighting.
Jerry was devoted to his wife, Mary. He  loved to travel with her. He spoke often about his sons, he coached them in sports when they were younger,  and enjoyed a close relationship with them. He adored his granddaughter and spoke fondly about their visits together and her performances at shows.
Jerry was an honest, patient good natured man. This was put to the test when he sat through 10 days of cross examination as part of his litigation. Most days were not full days; some days were relatively short, a few hours because he was not feeling well from his recent chemotherapy treatments. Yet he showed up at every scheduled deposition, with a smile and a kind word. He never lost his temper, even in the mist of intense, arguably sometimes disrespectful cross examination.
My life has been greatly enriched for having known Jerry. His strength, honesty and fun loving nature in the face of the ultimate adversity is an inspiration for how I want to live my life. He told Mary and me that he loved his favorite nurse, me and obviously her. I never told him, but I loved him too.

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