Fernbank’s Own Permanent Treasure: Jerry Washington

February 18, 2010 at 7:03 pm 2 comments

Whether you are an employee, volunteer, intern or even visitor, it’s guaranteed that you’ve ran into Jerry Washington at some point throughout the marvelous halls of Fernbank Museum. Although he is officially the VP of Facilities & Operations, Jerry prefers to be recognized as the good ol’ handyman. Whatever needs assembling, fixing, transporting or anything else you can think of, Jerry is there, dependable and eager, to get the job done.

Jerry knows this area of Atlanta inside and out; he graduated from the once-Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Atlanta near Boulevard (closed in 1985 and converted into an apartment building). After high school, he entered into the construction business and landed a job right here at Fernbank, that is, before the museum existed. Two years prior to the construction of the museum, Jerry was already onsite as part of the crew that built the museum from the ground up. After almost two years of construction, Fernbank opened its doors to the public in October 1992. Jerry still remembers that unforgettable day, and even still has the Opening Day T-shirt.

Aside from the daily operational and practical tasks that Jerry is sure to take care of, he is also a holiday party planner! Every year, Jerry organizes the staff’s White Elephant Gag Party. I had absolutely no clue what to expect, but he later elaborated. The staff joins together in the break room, placing their mysteriously wrapped holiday gifts on the table.  Each staff member pulls a random number, and in that order, they take turns opening the gag gifts. Jerry enjoys a playful, holiday cheer where everyone can laugh and enjoy each other’s company. The strangest gag gift that Jerry’s ever received was a toilet seat cover! But he’s done his fair share of gag giving as well. Jerry admitted to giving a wheel of toilet paper as a gift, which he dedicated to those who kept reminding him that the staff restroom was lacking toilet paper. This is not your average holiday party, but Jerry is not your average handyman. He is so much more than that.

You can oftentimes find Jerry working on facilities or maintenance requests, communicating about those requests through his walkie talkie, or in various meetings about upcoming requests. One request in particular sticks out in his memory – to temporarily relocate the dinosaurs from the Great Hall for a special event. To calm the shocked look on my face, a laughing Jerry tells me, “No way, I didn’t actually do it! They only asked me to do it – didn’t mean I had to.”

Many exhibitions have passed through Fernbank over the years, three of which remain Jerry’s favorites. Among the most beautiful exhibits he’s ever seen here at Fernbank was Pearls: A Natural History (2007). His second-most favorite exhibit featured booger-shooting machines that entertained kids (as well as adults): Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body (2005). Although these are among his favorites, Lizards & Snakes: Alive! (2008) is Jerry’s favorite without a doubt. He loves live animals, reassuring that something is always bound to occur when live animals are in the museum. He reminisced stories of a snake lose in the Great Hall, an alligator roaming around the bank, and the never-ending snake skin that shed off the in-house anaconda. As an animal lover, Jerry is thrilled for the Geckos: Tails to Toepads, opening in May 2010.

What would such a fun-loving and energetic person do if he were stranded on a desert island and could only bring five things with him? Although he could only come up with four answers (his wife, his dogs BJ and Lela, his mother and his friends), Jerry’s most charming personality trait became apparent to me. He did not list one material item, only people. Jerry loves people more than anything; he loves to make those around him laugh and smile, calling himself “The Morale Booster.”

“I absolutely love the people here,” Jerry replied, after I asked what part of working here was his favorite. “I wake up every morning in a great mood; I love coming to work. If I woke up in a bad mood, I wouldn’t be here. I love my job.”

Each year, thousands of people visit Fernbank to see the treasures within the exhibitions and IMAX® films. But the smaller, very fortunate group of staff, board members, volunteers and the interns (J) have their own permanent treasure all year long: Jerry Washington!

Traci Brodnax, Marketing & Communications Intern

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Heather  |  May 19, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Love it! As a former intern, I can’t imagine my experience at Fernbank without Jerry. I can’t count how many times I’d go into his office for help with a project or advice and walk out laughing or smiling. Jerry has a way of putting his coworkers in a great mood, and he’s great at what he does.

    Reply
  • 2. Dale Harmon  |  July 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Jerry is a great guy and all the best wishes on his retirement to The Hammock Beach, Florida.

    Reply

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About

At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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