March i8, 2014
REST IN PEACE
Dr. Jerome Alphonsus Travers of Summit, N.J., a psychologist, faithful Catholic, and loving husband, father and grandfather, died Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in Overlook Medical Center, of complications from a stroke he suffered in September.
A wake will be held at the Paul Ippolito Summit Memorial Funeral Home, 7 Summit Ave., Summit, on Sunday, March 23, from 2 to 6 p.m., with a Funeral Mass to be held at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Summit at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 24. Interment will follow at St. Teresa's Cemetery, Summit.
Jerry, as he was known, was born on Dec. 15, 1935, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was the third of four children of Alphonsus Jerome Travers of Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland, and Catherine (Kathleen) Russell Mulholland of Renfrew, Scotland.
His father worked as a shoemaker and janitor, and his mother as a maid and later a nurse. His stories of childhood featured the joys and trials of Canadian winters: sleeping under coats for blankets and early-morning treks through the snow to daily Mass. After his father's death in 1950, he immediately began working to help support the family, taking a job at a local slaughterhouse.
Jerry joined the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, a reserve regiment, where he played the glockenspiel for the parade band, a military service of which he boasted throughout his life. He graduated from Cathedral High School, where he began lifelong friendships.
Jerry earned a diploma in textile manufacturing-knitting from Hamilton's Institute of Textiles, and then became a salesman for Gordon Mackay & Co., selling ladies undergarments to dry goods stores around Ontario.
In 1959, he moved to the United States to join the Paulist Fathers. Jerry spent six years in seminary in Washington, D.C., receiving a B.A. in 1962, and an M.A. in theology in 1966 from St. Paul's College. He cherished his formative years in the priesthood, and was grateful to the Paulists for his education and for the lifelong companionship of a group of extraordinary men.
Jerry was stationed at the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Inwood section of Manhattan, N.Y., in the late 1960's and was hospital chaplain.
His work as a parish priest included counseling the bereaved families of soldiers lost in Vietnam, which led him to a degree in pastoral counseling at Iona College and awakened his desire to become a therapist.
During this period of transition for the nation and the Church, he grew a beard and longish hair and pursued doctoral studies at Fordham University.
In 1972, Jerry joined an exodus of Roman Catholic priests in the United States who left active ministry and were laicized. He considered himself a priest to the end and was an active member of the Corps of Reserve Priests United for Service (CORPUS), a reform group working for a renewed view of the priesthood.
In 1973, Jerry married Mary Segers, then a Columbia University graduate student from the Bronx, N.Y., whom he met at a lecture. In their decades together, they shared the adventure of raising children in a dual-career household, a love of travel, especially to France and Ireland, and an interest in religious art and military and political history.
They wrote several articles together, and recently collaborated on essays about the church sex abuse crisis.
Mary described Jerry as a true intellectual and loyal friend, full of wit, sass, and great common sense. He was sweet, slightly wacky, very loving, and possessed of depth and a great sense of humor. He loved the company of people, was ever curious, an avid reader, and could discuss almost anything.
In 1979, Jerry and Mary moved to Summit. Jerry maintained his practice as a licensed psychologist in New York City and in Summit.
An innovative clinician and thinker, in 1981 he became the first solo practitioner of psychotherapy to receive a National Endowment of the Humanities award, for research on the psychological characteristics of medieval mystics. In 1996, Jerry was named a fellow of the American Psychological Association.
Since 2005, he had been an adjunct professor in the Medical Humanities Program at Drew University. Jerry also served as clinical supervisor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Professional Psychology. He served as a consultant to the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen.
As a result of his 1989 attendance at the U.S. Army War College, Jerry was awarded a Medal of Commendation and was made an honorary officer in the 78th Training Division, U.S. Army.
Jerry was a regular at the Summit community pool and served as a member of the Summit Democratic Municipal Committee and the Union County Democratic Committee.
Throughout his career, Jerry wrote frequently for "Voices," the Journal of the AAP and served as a member of its editorial board. He was a devoted member of his AAP "family group" which met regularly to process their work and personal lives.
As a therapist and as a human being, Jerry employed gentle humor, compassion, a forgiving view of people's faults, and above all, empathy.
He had considered retirement but felt a moral commitment to continue therapy with patients who still wanted to see him, "until one of us drops." Jerry worked until his stroke. He was a skilled listener by nature and training, and believed that "Love is paying attention."
Jerry followed the same compass as a father. He was always scouting opportunities and adventures to enrich his family's life. He taught compassion, and that principles are more valuable than rules. He modeled self-acceptance, nurturing, curiosity, hard work and a playful spirit. He took time to express his love in heartfelt notes.
Jerry delighted in his granddaughters. He sang to them, remembering Scottish tunes from his boyhood, and found every opportunity to stop by for a visit or to read to them on the porch. Around them, he was like an eager puppy.
Jerry's annual Christmas letters were just one example of the energy he put into his many deep friendships. He remained close to his Canadian family with regular calls and visits.
"Being happy" was never his goal; he wanted a life full of meaning. In the last six months, Jerry met his condition with great courage. He would have liked to live for many more years and will be deeply missed.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Mary Segers; children, Suzanne Travers of Summit, N.J., and Jean-Paul Travers of Los Angeles, Calif.; granddaughters, Evelyn and Julia of Summit, N.J., along with his brother, Kevin Travers and his wife, Janet Speranzini, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; his sister, Doris Coleman (wife of the late Murray), of Ajax, Ontario, Canada, and his sister, Sheila Malcolmson and her husband, Gerry, of Dundas, Ontario, Canada, and numerous nieces and nephews.