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My only hope is to be a good teacher, a good writer and a great dad.
- Jerry Mathes
One might think a poet would lead a tranquil, quiet existence. That’s not the case for Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar Jerry Mathes, a 40-something Idaho native who as a younger man went over the side of a fishing trawler into the Bering Sea. Working as a fisherman out of Alaska was just one of the many exciting and dangerous jobs Jerry’s had over the years. That particular night when he went overboard, “I really thought I was done for,” Jerry said, one of “numerous scrapes with death” he had in Alaska and later as a fire fighter in the forests of the Great Northwest.
Jerry’s days on the icy ocean are long gone, although he still works summers with an elite group of fire fighters known as the Krassel Heli-Rappellers, based at the Payette National Forest in Idaho. But his true loves—poetry, teaching, and his family (wife Kathy and daughters Sophia and Madison)—now take up most of his time nine months of the year. Jerry currently teaches writing at the University of Idaho in Moscow, from which he received his master of fine arts degree. It was his life-long goal to be a teacher and author, and he has achieved both goals. He is the author of The Journal West, a book of poems that explores Jerry’s work experiences, and he has also wrapped up the final chapter of his first novel, "Red Flag Warning," which he describes as "a book about love, death and wildfire on Mexican border." It should be published sometime in 2009. His first book of poems, “Fall in the Borderland,” was published in 2008.
In looking back at his life as a late-comer to college, Jerry said his love of learning was nurtured by his family, but he gives thanks to Claire Davis, one of his undergraduate instructors at Lewis-Clark State College, who “opened up the world” of writing to him. “She was a demanding and thorough teacher and if the Foundation took nominations for teachers who helped scholars succeed, I’d nominate her every chance I could.” Jerry called Professor Davis the “prime mover” of his writing career and the teacher who “kicked me off the cliff so I could get my wings.”
Jerry was the first member of his family to receive a college degree. At one point he thought he would like to pursue his Ph.D., but instead will concentrate on writing and teaching and, of course, fire fighting. All of this would not have been possible without the support of the Foundation, which he described as “life altering.”