It is a bit daunting to consider our 50th reunion at Corona del Mar High School (CdMHS) is coming up this summer. Talk about time flying by! It really does seem like just yesterday that I was hanging out with my CdMHS crowd. One of my very best friends during those four years was Jeff Zerkie. Zerkie was as sweet a man as I knew in High School. Everyone liked him. How could you not!? His heart was always in the right place. And yet, like me, he was always up for a little adventure if it brought out a good laugh.
I have gone on an intensive internet hunt for Zerkie for each CdMHS reunion to no avail. Last I knew, he had disappeared somewhere into Wyoming near Cheyenne, yet I could never get a beat on him. Until I ran across this:
Jeffrey Richard Zerkie passed away on March 11, 2022 at the age of 66 in Winnemucca, Nevada. He was born on July 6, 1955 to Charles Richard Zerkie and Maryon Lee Thompson in California. He is survived by his sisters, Sandra Walden and Barbara Bingaman and many other family members and friends.
Please send your condolences, photos, and comments to this site (above) to help us remember Zerkie. I have been in touch with Jeff’s sisters (Sandra and Barbara) and know it would warm their hearts to hear from any of his friends.
I last saw Jeff at our wedding in Newport Beach in 1991. I have a video of that ceremony, which shows him walking in and taking his seat just before it starts. You could see people around him murmuring, “That’s Jeff Zerkie,” as if he was a rock star from the past. In fact, he was.
Jeff had lived a lot of life up to that point, more than most of us will live in a lifetime. He went well beyond the cat with nine lives.
I could write a book on the shenanigans that Jeff and I engaged in during our high school days. Other than living just a few blocks from each other, we didn’t have much in common. Zerkie did not surf, follow the Dodgers, or “appear” to care much about girls. But whenever trouble was in the air, Zerkie seemed to be nearby. We were true partners in crime.
Here are two brief stories with Zerkie from our High School days. Please join in on the link above and tell more!
First was when Zerkie and I were teammates on the CdMHS Sophomore basketball team under the tutelage of Coach Al Colonico. Coach Colonico ran a firmly disciplined program (he was also a football coach). He was all business. If you screwed up on the court, Colonico was famous for grabbing you by the collar and claiming you were a “village idiot” for committing such a travesty.
Jeff did not get much playing time, as Colonico tended to save the “reserves” for when we had a commanding lead with less than a minute left to play. As a result, Zerkie mostly sat at the end of the bench, likely fearing he’d be called a village idiot for falling asleep! As the season wore on, Jeff suggested to me before one of our games that he was going to bring a box of Cracker Jacks to stay entertained during the game. I laughed but didn’t think he was serious. But he was! Zerkie ate the entire box (and opened the prize) without Colonico having a clue. We were all dying on the bench watching him sit back and enjoy every caramel kernel and peanut as if he was sitting at a Lakers game.
A second memory is one Jeff and I kept pretty quiet on over the years (for good reason!). We had a beer (or maybe two) one night and decided on the spur of the moment that we would streak the 5 Crowns Restaurant in town. We had zero experience in this area, but since streaking was in the headlines in 1974 (Academy Awards Show), we decided to make some local news in CdM.
As we entered the front door of 5 Crowns, we were both giddy with nervous energy and realized we had to run FAST. Jeff shot to the right into the bar, and I quickly went left into the restaurant. As I was racing a 5-minute-per-mile pace by tables to find my way out (with customers clapping as I went by), I suddenly found myself in the bar. The first thing I see is Jeff walking to the counter with the manager, who has his arm around Jeff, saying something to the effect of, “Let me buy you a drink!”
I immediately YELL, “Zerkie, we need to get out of here!”
Thankfully, Jeff wakes up to reality and agrees it is not time for a free drink. He follows me to the front door, where the hostess sees us coming and swings it open just in time for us to dash out without missing a stride.
The story gets better. Seventeen years later, Marla and I are holding the rehearsal dinner for our wedding at the 5 Crowns Restaurant. Somehow, word got out that I was “one of them…”. The story had gathered steam over the years, and soon, workers from the restaurant were coming by to meet me; some even told me they were there the night of the attack.
I don’t know where Jeff was on his faith journey, but I do know at one point in his life, he had committed himself to Jesus Christ.
There is a movie that came out this spring called “The Jesus Revolution,” which took place in Corona del Mar (Pirate’s Cove) during the period Jeff and I were hanging out there a lot. It is about the Jesus movement revival that took hold in southern California in the 1970s. Jeff became one of those Jesus Freaks for I can’t remember how long. But I do remember him being high as a kite over it.
There are so many other stories that I hope to retell with our classmates at this year’s reunion. I am saddened to think I can’t remember them with Jeff, but I am hopeful that we will have our reunion of all reunions to do that one day in heaven.
God bless you, Jeff. Thanks for all the great memories.
I look forward to seeing you on the other side.
————-Pictures of Jeff Zerkie——–
Recent picture at a favorite diner in Winnemucca
Jeff mailed me this photo after he enlisted in the U.S. Army. On the back, he wrote:
“I can mess you up bad.”
Senior Prom 1973