By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
OSO — Around town, he was known as Hippie Jerry.
Locals used the nickname with affection to describe the laid-back Seattle transplant who wore his long gray hair in a pony tail and drove a ratty old pickup.
Gerald Logan, 63, grew to love his adopted Oso home where he spent the last two decades of his life with partner Shelley Bellomo, 55, on E. Steelhead Drive. The couple enjoyed their cats and the simple rhythms of country life along the Stillaguamish River.
“He was Oso, in my mind,” said attorney Ben Wells, who lives in the unincorporated community between Arlington and Darrington. “He was a handyman, carpenter, fix-it guy. He was quite unassuming, completely trustworthy.”
Logan and Bellomo were among the 41 people killed in the March 22 mudslide that destroyed their Steelhead Haven neighborhood. Two others remain missing and are presumed dead.
Like his father before him, Gerald traded the “G” for a “J” and went by Jerry.
He grew up in Seattle and graduated from Ballard High School.
As a boy, David Logan often looked up to his brother, six years his senior.
Jerry Logan was into hot rods, music and girls, making money to pay for his passions as a dishwasher at Ray’s Boathouse. He boasted an impressive collection of eight-track tapes and spent hours in the driveway working on his 1956 Ford Fairlane.
David Logan tells the story about asking his brother for a ride to basketball practice on Valentine’s Day in the late 1960s.
Jerry told David he’d be happy to oblige but that they’d need to make a couple of stops along the way.
They first pulled up to a house where Jerry opened the trunk and pulled out a bouquet. He gave it to a young woman living there.
A few blocks away, he opened the trunk again and gave another girl chocolates.
They made yet another stop to drop off a Valentine’s gift to a third girl before David finally made it to practice.
“He was kind of a playboy,” David said, chuckling at the memory.
In the early 1970s, Jerry Logan served in the U.S. Army where, as an optometrist assistant at a Colorado base hospital, he learned to grind lenses. More than 40 years later, his friends in Oso would often watch him repair a pair of glasses over and over again. It was the same pair he’d crafted in the Army. The frames were of made of gold. He cherished them.
For many years, Logan successfully ran his own carpet installation business, Jerry’s Carpet Service. Its motto: “We lay; you pay.”
Eventually, Logan and Bellomo decided to leave the city for the countryside. They settled in Oso, population 180, more or less.
Logan found work with Kermit Lamie, a general contractor. At first Lamie didn’t know what to think of Logan. He wondered if he would be reliable. They took it one day at a time.
The pair worked together for 15 years. His carpet-laying skills were particularly impressive.
“He was one of those guys he would spend as much time as he had to make sure things were done right,” said Lamie, who has since moved to a Wisconsin farm.
Lamie found Logan to be cheerful and kind-hearted.
“I don’t think he was ever really down. If he was he never really showed it,” he said. “Jerry was Jerry. That’s about it.”
Logan also was a trusted neighbor, asked to take care of homes and properties on Steelhead Drive when people were out of town. When newcomers moved in, he often was hired for odd jobs.
Wells would chat with Logan from time to time at what locals call The Shack, a building at a local mill where folks gather for coffee and cribbage. Logan was a regular.
Wells sometimes would bring his acoustic guitar by to play in front of a friendly audience.
Two days before the mudslide, Wells sang an old rhythm-and-blues number, “Built For Comfort” by Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim. Afterward, he looked at Logan to try to gauge his thoughts.
“He liked it,” Wells said. “I could tell by his subtle smile.”
The intimacy of a small town suited Logan and Bellomo. It seemed to bring them ever closer.
“I think they were at peace living where they lived,” David Logan said. “She was very loving and he was very giving. They weren’t set up for the limelight. That was ideal for them there.”
David Logan is thankful his brother was so happy in his adopted home. He also is grateful to all of those who worked so hard to find Jerry and others amid the slide debris.
He shared those thoughts with President Barack Obama during his April 22 visit to the disaster site.
“I told Obama that the pioneer spirit was alive in Oso,” he said. “People take care of each other out there.”
A memorial mass for Gerald Logan is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 1200 E. Fifth St., in Arlington.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.