University Heights names Jacobson 2016 Citizen of the Year
As 2016 drew to a close, the city of University Heights honored two individuals for their service to the city and the community.
At the Dec. 19 city council meeting, UH Mayor Susan Infeld presented Jerome (Jerry) Jacobson, a 60-plus-year resident, with the city’s 2016 Citizen of the Year award, in honor of his 40 years of service as a member of the UH Police Auxiliary Unit.
The city also recognized Patricia Meehan, administrative assistant for the UH Police Department, as its 2016 Employee of the Year.
Meehan joined the department in 2014. Announcing the honor, Mayor Infeld said, “Patti has been nominated by her peers for her outstanding commitment and service to the department and the community. Her dedication and kindness are felt by all. I have received many compliments from residents about Patti’s kindness and help when they call or visit the police department.”
UH Police Chief Steven Hammett said of Jacobson, “Jerry’s long service to the community and mentorship to his fellow auxiliary members has been invaluable to the smooth functioning of the Police Auxiliary Unit.”
"Jerry grew up in University Heights,” noted Infeld. “As a young boy in 1950, he moved to University Heights with his family at a time when phone service for the neighborhood was available only through the pay phone on the tree lawn for Jerry’s family home [at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Laurelhurst Road].
“Notwithstanding Jerry’s humbleness, he is rightfully acknowledged as ‘a community treasure’ in the award presented to him.”
Reflecting on his life and “many careers,” Jacobson said, “It’s been a very interesting life. Sometimes it’s so interesting, it sounds like it’s fabricated!”
Jacobson graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in January 1960 and then enrolled at The Ohio State University.
After studying business administration for a few years, Jacobson left college and joined the circus. He worked as a “candy butcher”—a concessionaire—until he learned the business of clowning.
Jacobson worked mainly for the Mills Bros. Circus, whose owner lived in University Heights. He also worked for the Rudy Bros. Circus, the Hoxie Bros. Circus and the Shrine Circus.
Jacobson was also a magician, who began studying magic at age 9. As an adult, he became an advisor to a group of young magicians, one of whom was Arsenio Hall.
Drafted by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Jacobson was a medical supply specialist in Okinawa, Japan. When his superiors learned of his performance background, they asked him to entertain injured soldiers, base personnel and their families, and local residents at Christmas shows held on the base. Altogether he estimates that he entertained about 5,000 people in December 1966.
Discharged from the Army in 1967, Jacobson married in 1968. His wife, Margot, worked as a teacher while he worked for his family’s machine shop—and continued working for the circus any chance he got.
Margot caught the performance bug, too, and also joined the circus. She rode the elephants, worked with the dogs during the dog act, and became Jacobson’s assistant during his magic act. After eight years of travel and fun, the Jacobsons left the circus and had two daughters.
Jacobson became the manager of his family’s machine shop and continued advising magic groups while Margot worked at the University Heights Library. He also worked on weekends at the hardware store owned by his father-in-law, and became a certified locksmith. He eventually went to work for Dunbar Armored Car Company as the trainer for the Cleveland office.
Margot died in 1988, after a battle with cancer.
Jacobson joined the police auxiliary unit in 1977, at the urging of a family friend, Hugo Spitz. Through the years, Jacobson has trained and mentored all new auxiliary unit members, worked at every road race, and attended innumerable block parties and civic functions.
Jacobson has continued performing. One of his proudest moments was performing at the White House for a Halloween event on the East Lawn.
Patrick Grogan-Myers is the community development coordinator for University Heights. UH Mayor Susan Infeld contributed background information for this article.