You might see a flower bed in Schenley Plaza with a plaque in tribute to Jacqueline Reid Gerjuoy among the daffodils that reads, She loved gardens. We loved her. A few feet away a circular bench also stands in her memory, She lived with love for all and malice towards none. “That was Jac,” smiles Ed Gerjuoy, her husband for 68 years.
Gerjuoy met Jackie at UC Berkeley in 1938. He was a graduate student in physics, she was a junior undergrad. The couple married in 1940 and eventually had two sons while Gerjuoy went on to be a physics professor at the University of Southern California.
In the summer of 1952 Gerjuoy took a temporary position in the Westinghouse labs. He found Pittsburgh beautiful and told Jackie how nice it was in his calls to her. He was offered a permanent position at Pitt (where he is still professor emeritus) and took it, relocating Jackie and the boys to the steel city. “I didn’t know that there was a steel strike going on that summer,” Gerjuoy remembers. Two days after his wife’s arrival the mills again started churning steel and emitting huge clouds of dust. “That almost ended my marriage,” Gerjuoy laughs.
The family stayed in Pittsburgh and when Jackie passed in 2008 Gerjuoy selected the Parks Conservancy’s brand new Schenley Plaza to commemorate her. He also established the Jacqueline Reid Gerjuoy Nature and Environmental Resources Collection at the nearby Carnegie Library. “Half my money is hers and I wanted to spend it on her,” he says. “The only thing that makes me sad is that I didn’t tell her my plans before she died. She would have loved to be in Schenley Plaza.”
Days before Gerjuoy’s 97th birthday, on a dreary-turned-sunny Sunday, a dozen kids from Temple Sinai and their adults kneel in those garden beds, bringing them to life. In a flurry of trowels and small garden gloves, hundreds of flowers take root.
Nearby, Gurjuoy and his two sons sit on the bench devoted to Jackie, laughing and chatting with the Parks Conservancy’s own Jaci, the caretaker of the Plaza gardens.
Jackie loved gardens.
Sweaty and smiley, the kids finish planting and head over to where Gerjuoy and his family sit. Slowly, someone starts singing “Happy Birthday.” Everyone chimes in.
And they love her.