Eight Bells: Jerome Bedford La Dow

Published on November 26th, 2019

Jerome “Jerry” La Dow, significant competitor and contributor to the sport, passed away October 30th at 84 years.

Born on August 22, 1935 in Exeter, California to Charles Reynolds La Dow and Ruth Brown La Dow, the family relocated to San Diego in 1943, it was at Point Loma High where Jerry met the love of his life Sally Haas who he would marry in 1957. Jerry and Sally enjoyed over 62 years of marriage before his passing.

Jerry graduated from Claremont Men’s College in 1957 and served 2 years in the U.S. Army as a 1st Lieutenant. After military, Jerry attended Cal’s Bolt Hall Law School with plans to become a lawyer. Yet with two infant sons (Jon & Andy), it was time to get a job so in 1961 Jerry and Sally moved back to San Diego.

He joined San Diego Auto Lease which subsequently became PHD Corporation. Jerry quickly worked his way up becoming a partner and President for many years. Eventually, the company was sold to Leaseway Transportation where he briefly served as its Western Regional President. Jerry was also a past President of the San Diego Executives Association, San Diego Wholesale Credit Association, and the business networking group AT&T.

During Jerry’s work career he was a dedicated husband and father, yet he made time to pursue his greatest hobby: competitive, long distance yacht racing. Along with his best friend Nick Frazee, they competed in and won most all of the USA to Mexico races. Jerry also crewed in five Transpacific Yacht Races from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Jerry’s sailing credentials were getting noticed by the legends of yacht racing, Lowell North and Dennis Conner. Jerry’s business skills were also in high demand where he served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Yacht Club and as the club’s Commodore in 1982.

Jerry raced with Lowell and Dennis on their grand prix racing programs winning at the highest levels of the sport including the Two Ton Worlds, SORC, Admiral’s Cup, and the Sardinia Cup. Jerry raced in the famous 1979 Fastnet Rock Race where multiple boats and lives were lost when a massive storm hit.

“Among all the racing I did with Jerry, I remember him best on the Mexican Races we sailed together,” recalled Hall of Famer Tom Whidden. “There was a big premium on being a light, strong, and versatile crew member, and Jerry was the best. He could do every job on the boat. He was strong, agile, quick and didn’t weigh much. And on top of that he was a good cook. We had some good wins and always ate great food!”

Jerry and Sally retired to Borrego Spring 1986, though retirement did not last long as soon after, Jerry became the Executive Director of Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes America’s Cup team, President of Dennis Conner Sports, and completed three America’s Cup cycles in San Diego and two more in New Zealand.

“Dennis thought the world of Jerry,” said Whidden. “He was tough when he needed to be but there was never a higher integrity, more principled and honest as the day is long, person. I had so much respect for him.”

Jerry and Sally retired full time to Borrego where he was a serious hiker and a recreational golfer, but in 2010 suffered a stroke which was followed by Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia.

Jerry is survived by his dedicated wife Sally Haas La Dow, sons Jonathan B. La Dow, R. Andrew La Dow (Robin), brothers Peter La Dow (Lupe), Stephen La Dow (Susie), their respective families, and his two grandsons Jacob Scott La Dow and William Reynolds La Dow.

Jerry lived a dynamic and full life. He was known for his strong ethics, his intellect, and a passion for doing the right thing. Donations in Jerry’s name can be made to the San Diego Yacht Club Sailing Foundation or a charity of your choice.

A small family gathering has taken place in remembrance of Jerry’s amazing life.

PHOTO: Swiftsure III crew after winning elapsed time and Class A honors in the 1985 Transpac Race. Jerry La Dow is seated in the lower left.

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