Jerry Jacob, a longtime Anokan who dedicated decades of service to the city, died Aug. 25 at the age of 84 after a long battle with multiple myeloma.
Jacob spent 53 years in service to the city, both as an elected official and an appointed volunteer to city commissions.
Passionate about the community and its history, Jacob was known as a one of Anoka’s greatest champions.
He was first elected to the Anoka City Council in 1961 and served until 1969. That was followed by an additional year when he was appointed to finish the term of Steve Scarborough.
Former Anoka City Manager Sam Gesko said managers often seek out individuals as a support group, those who believe in the community, know its history and have a vision for its future.
“Jerry Jacob was one of those persons for me,” said Gesko, who served the city from 1967 to 1975. “He was personable, well-informed, cool-headed, rational, had the pulse of the community, politically savvy and always helpful. He loved Anoka.”
Gesko, who now lives in Montana but remained friends with Jacob, said that while he was politically astute, Jacob was not a politician. He spoke both logically and candidly.
“He was a true statesman on the local level,” Gesko said. “Our country could use a lot more like him.”
A 1945 graduate of Anoka High School, Jacob was a four-year letterman in football, basketball and baseball. After service in the U.S. Army with the Japan Occupation Force at the end of World War II, he attended the University of Minnesota. Jacob graduated with a law degree in 1955.
Jacob married Florence Jackson of St. Paul in 1952. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in July.
They had two sons, John and Robert and a daughter Anne, along with seven grandchildren.
His family describes him as a devoted husband and father – a true family man.
“He really cared a lot about his clients and his community,” said son John Jacob.
John said his dad enjoyed visiting with people from all walks of life and loved his regular coffee gatherings to keep up with what was going on around town.
“At his core, he was from Anoka, he grew up and was raised here. He lived here by choice and wanted to make Anoka a better place so people would continue to work here and raise their families,” said John.
Jacob had particular interests in the city’s wastewater treatment and the reconstruction of the Rum River Dam.
“The issue he was most passionate about was the Rum River corridor and wanting to beautify that,” said John.
He said some of his earliest memories were handing out campaign literature during his father’s runs for mayor and the school board, which he did not win.
Jacob maintained a private law practice in downtown Anoka and put his knowledge of local history to work on numerous boards and commissions. He was a charter member of both the Anoka Parking Advisory Board (23 years) and the Heritage Preservation Commission (14 years).
He also served on the city’s Planning Commission from 1961 to 1963 while on the city council, and again from 1991 to 1997.
Bob Kirchner, Anoka’s community development director and a fellow local historian, describes Jacob as one of the most positive and progressive people he has ever met – always thinking about how city leaders could make things better.
“He welcomed change but believed it should be thoughtfully guided,” said Kirchner.
Members of the Heritage Preservation Commission said Jacob always had a wealth of knowledge about the community. And anything he didn’t know, he was quick to learn.
Councilmember Jeff Weaver was a charter member of the HPC, along with Jacob.
“His dedication to the history of the city of Anoka was remarkable,” said Weaver. “He was relentless about making improvements to our community.”
Both Weaver and current HPC member Bart Ward said Jacob was a driving force behind the commission’s placard program recognizing historic homes in the community.
He diligently researched property abstracts, studying the time lines to decipher a home’s past, said Weaver.
Ward said Jacob was one of a handful of people, including avid historian Charlie Sell who died a few years ago, who were devoted to the city’s history.
“These guys did research on a daily basis and we don’t have a lot of people like that anymore,” said Ward.
Current Councilmember Steve Schmidt said Jacob was “an icon, there’s no doubt about that.”
He remembered Jacob’s careful but direct approach during his time on the city council.
“He would step up when something needed to be addressed that could be touchy and put it in a form that people didn’t take offense to but it forced them to look at it,” said Schmidt.
In Jacob’s retirement years he spent a lot of time researching family genealogy and the outdoors, participating in the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.
A memorial service for Jacob will take place at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 8) at Zion Lutheran Church. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. A private interment will be held at Forest Hill Cemetery.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]