Jerry Eugene Olivier passed away peacefully on January 24, 2023 at the age of 85 after being taken to hospice care following a brief hospitalization.
Jerry was born in Portland, Oregon on December 3, 1937, the only son of Robert Olivier and Lorene Reeves. The family moved to Cutler City (now part of Lincoln City) Oregon when he was still a child. Robert Olivier worked in construction and built several homes and buildings in the Lincoln City area. Robert was also a firefighter who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 38 while fighting a fire when Jerry was still a teenager.
Jerry graduated from Taft High School in 1956. He attended college at the Oregon College of Education (which is now Western State University) in Monmouth, OR. He met Joyce Fawver there and they married on March 23, 1958. After college, Jerry and Joyce moved to Portland, Oregon. Joyce became a teacher and Jerry worked briefly at New York Merchandise Company before being drafted into the Army.
Jerry was assigned to the 16th Signal Battalion at Fort Huachuca, AZ where he was to be a teletype operator after completing basic training at Fort Ord, CA. He spent time in Fort Lee, Virginia for additional training in intelligence and communications. Shortly afterward, he was given a special assignment to work in Washington, D.C. He was assigned with working with the new President, John F. Kennedy, and his wife Jackie Kennedy to teach them communication code words to use when they were away from the White House so that their conversations would not be easily understood by others. Jerry thought JFK was very bright, but Jackie was easily distracted and more interested in Jerry’s opinions on White House décor than in learning codes.
After his White House assignment, he was sent to Fort Huachuca to await further orders. While there, he asked permission to camp near the Fort in the desert, which was granted. While he was sleeping, he awoke to find a rattlesnake in his sleeping bag, which he killed with his shovel! Despite this, he grew to love the area and he returned to Arizona in his retirement years later.
Jerry was sent to Europe for assignments there. He spent time in Paris and then in Heidelberg and Frankfurt, Germany. This ingrained in him a love for travel, which he fully explored later in his life. As part of his training, Jerry learned to speak German and Russian. He spent time in Russia, but his assignment was classified, and he would never talk about it.
When Jerry was in Europe, he climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland and picked some pretty wildflowers flowers that he later had pressed and framed. He learned that they were Edelweiss. A Swiss woman told him that the flowers were a fortunate find because it contained a cluster of seven and meant that he would find his true love and soul mate in the future.
Jerry was honorably discharged from the Army in 1966. He returned to his wife in Portland and obtained his Master’s Degree in Education at Portland State University. He began working for Coast to Coast Stores Western Division, which had a distribution center on Lovejoy Street in Portland. When Coast to Coast decided to build a new distribution center in Springfield, Oregon, he transferred there in February 1972 and hired about 200 employees to staff the warehouse. Jerry purchased a home in Eugene, Oregon, while Joyce maintained a townhouse in Portland.
Jerry’s life changed forever with a phone call he received in October 1979 while he was working in the warehouse offices. His secretary told him that a gentleman named Don had called. Jerry was expecting the call—a friend told him that Don Driggars was the leader of an informal support group of gays and lesbians who were married and figuring out how to come to terms with their situations.
Jerry invited Don to meet him at his home in Eugene, and when the doorbell rang, Jerry opened it to find the person that was going to be the love of his life for the next 38 years. In Jerry’s own words: “I will never understand how and why that happened, but it was meant to be for sure. It changed both of our lives forever and ever! I have never felt love and devotion in that form before. From that evening we met and for the next 38 years we were knitted together 24/7.”
When Don came into Jerry’s house, his attention was drawn to the framed Edelweiss flowers hanging on the wall. Don loved the flower, and the song “Edelweiss” from the movie “The Sound of Music” was one of his favorites. The cluster of Edelweiss was one of the first things they bonded over.
Don was working as a hairstylist and Jerry was still at Coast to Coast as a Human Resources Manager. Jerry encouraged Don to go into business for himself and together they purchased an existing salon in the Willamette Towers building in Eugene and named it “Illusions by Don.” Both men divorced their wives and became co-owners of the business, which ran successfully for several years until they sold it to two of their employees.
Jerry had a lifetime dream of being a teacher, and he began teaching Supervisory Skills classes at Lane Community College in Eugene. He eventually resigned from Coast to Coast after 25 years there and taught full time at LCC while helping Don run the salon business. He was awarded by the Governor of the State of Oregon as the top instructor in a community college for the entire state of Oregon.
Jerry sold his Eugene home and bought a condo in Eugene with Don, and then they purchased a home in Black Butte Ranch, Oregon. That was a place that Jerry and Don’s families gathered at Christmas time, and it remained a favorite gathering place for many years. It wasn’t long before they bought another home on the coast in Newport, Oregon, not far from where Jerry grew up.
Next, they bought a home in Oro Valley, AZ. For most of their time together, they alternated between living in Arizona six months out of the year and splitting the other six months between the Black Butte and Newport houses. Jerry encouraged Don to start teaching classes in oil painting, and together they created DART Enterprises, a business entity that kept track of the hundreds of paintings that Don painted and displayed in galleries in Oregon and Arizona, as well as the income from the art classes Don was teaching, all of which Jerry managed with a firm business mind.
Jerry retired before he reached 55 years of age. He and Don traveled the world together and visited nearly every continent. In one of the trips, Jerry took Don to the Matterhorn where he’d found the original Edelweiss flowers. In another, they both treated Don’s son Stephen to a special trip to Egypt. They made many, many friends through their travels and through Don’s popular art classes.
Jerry loved to host dinners and created numerous binders full of recipes. He kept meticulous track of everyone he’d served and made sure no one ever had the same dinner twice.
He also loved classical and Broadway music and he and Don frequently attended shows together.
Jerry treated Don’s children as his own, and he was instrumental in hiring Stephen as a janitor at Coast to Coast, after which he advanced through several promotions before ending his career there as a District Manager. Stephen and Sandy took Jerry’s Supervisory Skills classes at LCC and Jerry helped Sandy land a job at a medical firm afterwards. Although estranged from Don’s youngest daughter Shari, Jerry had fond memories of their early times together. He was a loving and supportive father figure who will be greatly missed.
In September 2002, Jerry had a stroke that paralyzed most of his body. He was not expected to walk again, and spent weeks at St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon. But 18 months later, he returned to the hospital walking with only a cane, showing how he’d been able to recover based on sheer will and with Don’s loving help.
In 2014, Oregon law changed to recognize gay marriages, and Jerry and Don decided it was time to declare their love for each other in a public ceremony. Meanwhile, Don’s son Stephen and his fiancée Jenny were also planning a wedding. They decided to combine their weddings and on Sunday, July 27, 2014, they held a double-wedding at McMenamin’s Kennedy School in Portland. It was a beautiful, loving ceremony attended by friends and family.
Over the years, Jerry and Don sold their Oregon homes and lived exclusively in Arizona at the foothills of the Catalina Mountains where they continued to entertain friends and family until Don passed in 2017. Jerry remained in the Oro Valley home for a few years before moving into assisted living, where he was very active socially and was often seen speeding through the hallways in his electric wheelchair on his way to a Bingo game or another social event. Jerry remained in the Tucson area he loved until his passing.
Jerry was preceded in death by his husband, Don Driggars; his parents, Robert and Lorene Olivier; and his many pets, including his favorite final gift from Don, a Shih Tzu named Teddy.
Jerry had no children of his own but is survived by Don’s children Stephen and Jenny Driggars of Beaverton, OR: Sandy Driggars and Roger Monger of Sutherlin, OR; and Shari Driggars and David Weber of Eugene; OR. His grandchildren include Kevin and Kristina Tiffee; Brianna Brady; Brandon Driggars; Anthony Weber; and Miranda Lee.
Jerry and Don had a huge number of friends over their lifetimes—far too many to mention by name here, but the family would like to recognize the contributions of those who were of the greatest help to Jerry in his final years, including Bud and Joey Fawver, Laurie Block, David Peltz, Mike and Beth Ball, and Jo Wills.
Jerry donated his body to medical research and no services are planned at this time, but the family expects to have a private memorial for him later in the year. Family and friends can contact Stephen Driggars for information.
Donations may be made in Jerry’s name to veterans or animal charities in the Tucson area.