I’m writing this about 3 hours after learning that my Dad has passed away. I’ve hinted at it in the blog post I put up about Walsgrave fountain, but I had been visiting him in hospital over the past 2 months, watching him fade away from my life. I don’t want to dwell on that though. I want to talk about what he meant to me. Eustace “Jerry” Cotterell was the best Dad I could hope for.
It might seem weird to use my skateboarding blog to write this, but honestly without my Dad my desire to be creative, to find skateboarding, and the drive to set up this blog, wouldn’t exist. The Terrible Company owes a lot to Jerry, and he supported me pursuing the skills that I would use to make daft skateboarding videos since the minute I combined film making with my silly wooden toy.
Jerry was born in Jamaica in 1936. He had a passion for bikes, working in a bike shop as a youth, and would hit the streets dodging traffic and skitching off of trucks to get speed. He was born 50 years too early, but I could tell deep down he had the kind of daredevil spirit and cheeky attitude that would have made him a natural skateboarder. He never really understood why I did it, but I could tell he respected the scene and the creativity involved. He was impressed by my silly little tricks and would raise his eyebrows in approval for every Frontside Air or Sweeper.
Jerry came to the UK in the 1960’s, and for a Black man in this country at that time, he faced unbelievable prejudice. Even still, he always responded with kindness and dignity. He held his head up high and always stood up for what he believed in. He was always there to support others in his community, helping younger generations find work or a home. People were visiting him in his final weeks, saying they had known him since they were little, and that he had always looked out for them. This spirit was something I always tried to carry with me when I started The Terrible Company, and without knowing it my Dad shaped my entire approach to lifting up others in the skate scene.
His kindness, his stubbornness, his sense of humour, his attitude toward work and making the lives of those around him better are the kind of traits that make up one of the best human beings you could hope to meet. I loved my Dad. I loved that he cared about skateboarders as much as I did, even if he didn’t really understand skateboarding. He was always up for giving us lifts to random skateparks, he would happily accommodate skaters coming to stay in our living room, and he helped build a couple of ramps on the odd occasion. He never stepped foot on a skateboard, but his love for what we do was enormous simply because he knew I cared about it. And that’s the best thing a Dad can do.
I really wished I had gotten more time with Jerry. But the time I did have was unmatched. I was able to show him a bunch of my video parts over the years, and I was happy to show him an almost finished video part of mine from my work in progress video Ghostface. As a video that is shaping up to be something I am very proud of, I needed him to see the dedication and love I had poured into this silly video, and let him know that he was a huge inspiration for the work ethic I put into something I made for fun. Now he is gone, it only cements a feeling I had that this video, this blog, everything in my life – I’ve done it for him. I did it to take every opportunity he gave me.
Rest in peace Jerry. I love you.