Jerry Wolfe was a tireless champion of Cherokee history, culture, and language. His programs fascinated people of all ages. As a storyteller, Wolfe recounted traditional Cherokee legends, and told stories about his experiences growing up in Cherokee, about the boarding schools, and about stickball games. As a young man, he played Cherokee stickball and learned to carve the sticks from wood. He was often in demand as a “caller” or announcer for stickball games. He told stories about his grandfather’s experiences in the Civil War.
Born in the Sherrill Cove community “on the center line of the Blue Ridge Parkway,” Jerry Wolfe grew up listening to the stories of his parents, Owen and Luciana Wolfe. Throughout his lifetime, Jerry Wolfe saw not only the coming of the Parkway to the location of his parents’ home, but many other changes as well. He attended the Cherokee Boarding School through tenth grade, when he enlisted in the Navy, during World War II. He served for six years and participated in the “D-Day” landing on Normandy Beach. When he returned to Cherokee he married his wife Juanita and began learning building trades, including stone masonry. He taught building trades to young people for twenty years with the federal Job Corps program. After his retirement, he began traveling with Methodist mission teams to do third world building projects, and has visited Jamaica, Barbados, Haiti, and South Africa.
In 2003, Jerry Wolfe received the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award honoring his work in preserving the stickball traditions. In his later years, Jerry Wolfe worked in the Outreach Program of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. He presented programs on Cherokee culture at High Point, Thomasville, Winston-Salem, Fort Bragg, Warren Wilson College, Western Carolina University, the North Carolina Welcome Center, and for groups from all over the world at the Museum. Wolfe continued to call the stickball games at the Cherokee Fair each fall.
In 2013, Jerry Wolfe received the designation of Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, becoming the first Cherokee man to receive that honor in over 200 years.
The video shown here is includes an Interview by Tonya Carroll, Photography by Ashley Evans, Mark Hadkett, Horace Kephart, and others Historic photos courtesy of Sylvester Crowe Horace Kephart Collection Regional Collection Hunter Library Western Carolina University Cullowhee.
Jerry Wolfe passed away on March 12, 2018 at the age of nine-three.