Gerry Woolery remembered as Emmy winner, Freeland chef

Woolery

Woolery

When Gerry Woolery moved to Coupeville from Los Angeles, he left his Hollywood trappings behind.

Literally.

“Gerry was so modest about his accomplishments as an animator and director,” said his wife Angele Woolery. “He ran a very successful animation production company.

He didn’t even bring his Emmy with him to Whidbey. It was in a bedroom closet at his mother’s house back in L.A. for years.”

Gerry, 73, died peacefully at home May 10 after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by Angele (his wife of 25 years), brother Ted (Mary Ellen), daughter Selina (Todd), grandson Duncan, first wife Kathleen Woolery and numerous nieces and nephews.

Gerry won that Emmy in 1984 for “Outstanding Achievement for Graphic Design and Title Sequences.” The work appeared on the sitcom, “The Duck Factory,” starring a young Jim Carey.

The show, easy to find these days on YouTube, followed the shenanigans of an animation studio. And, yes, the show was based on the Playhouse Pictures studio that Gerry and his brother Ted operated. Gerry’s father, Adrian, founded the studio in 1952 and is known for being the first-ever multiplane camera operator at Disney.

Those were different times than the likes of today’s animated movies from “Toy Story” to “Frozen” to “Isle of Dogs.” Back then, when Gerry and his fellow animators worked on a 30-second commercial for Cocoa Pebbles breakfast cereal based on the “Flintstones” character, it took a team of animators about four months to finish the ad spot. Every second of the commercial required 24 consecutive frames to be drawn and hand-painted before transferred to production.

Gerry created and directed films for the U.S. Navy. What’s more, he collaborated with renowned movie titleists Saul Bass and Sally Cruikshank.

The 1986 farcical comedy “Ruthless People,” starring Bette Midler and Danny DeVito, was Cruikshank’s breakthrough movie. She commissioned Gerry and his team to develop and create the movie’s animated opening sequence with a title song sung by Mick Jagger.

Gerry was a member of the Motion Picture Academy and served two terms as a governor of the Television Academy.

Gerry and Angele married in 1993 and wove their love story with the beauties of the Pacific Northwest by visiting Whidbey and eventually buying a home featuring western views near the Port Townsend ferry. Like many of us on South Whidbey, Gerry and Angele fell hard for the Sound, mountains, tall trees and our famed Penn Cove mussels.

Gerry went a step further with those mussels after he and Angele moved to Whidbey full-time in 2000. He perfected a signature dish of the local and worldwide favorites as part of his menu at the popular Gerry’s Kitchen in Freeland. Gerry loved cooking and baking. The restaurant, a long-time dream, was opened by the Woolerys in 2004. Long-time islanders will recall Gerry cooked at Eagles before opening his own place.

Gerry’s Kitchen enjoyed a delicious 10-year run on Main Street. The Record reported on the Woolerys’ decision to close in 2014: “The eatery was more than a restaurant, it was a gathering place for Freeland residents. People went there for great food, to hang out with friends and the Woolerys themselves. Gerry Woolery would often mingle with his customers, catching up on the latest and greatest.”

Along with the restaurant success, Gerry leveraged his lifelong love affair with cars to stake common ground here on South Whidbey. For decades, he raced his cherished Alfa Romeo at tracks in Washington and California. On Whidbey, Gerry and his friend, Rod McNae, started a sports car club in Freeland with lots of local men and women meeting every first Saturday of the month at the parking lot of Gerry’s Kitchen to show off their cars and swap stories. That group continues to meet every month in the parking lot at the Whidbey Telecom offices and WiFire Cafe on Main Street.

As for that Emmy? Gerry finally transported it to a rightful place in the Woolery household where it sits on top of the TV cabinet.

“I went to pick him up at the airport one time, years later,” recalled Angele. “Gerry is carrying this plain brown paper shopping bag with something swaddled in clothing. I asked, ‘what’s that’ and he said, ‘you said bring the Emmy, so I did.’ ”

Earlier this month, a home hospice nurse noticed the Emmy while caring for Gerry. Gerry asked the nurse, “Do you want to hold it?”

“Really?” said the nurse.

Gerry nodded and smiled.

“The hospice nurse couldn’t believe it and he asked if we can take a photo and send it to him,” said Angele. “Of course, we did.”

Friends and family who visited Gerry over the last months experienced the same smile and humor from their loved one.

“Gerry kept his humor to the very end and through a lot of pain,” said Angele. “He always said something silly every day to make me laugh.”

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