Rodolphe Gerald Bessette, who was known as Jerry, died peacefully at Cape Cod Hospital on Jan. 1, 2022, after a brief illness. His wife and daughters were at his side. The cause of death, confirmed by his wife, Jean, was congestive heart failure brought on by COPD. He was 74.
The son of Rodolphe and Jeanette (Hackett) Bessette, Jerry was born in Acushnet on June 20, 1947. He grew up in Quincy and graduated from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree in 1965.
Jerry’s parents divorced when he was young, and his father moved to a house on Ocean View Drive in Wellfleet, where Jerry spent summers. After high school, he met Jean, whose family had a summer home in Truro. They married in 1968. What started as a summer romance extended through 53 autumns and produced three daughters.
Even though Jerry washed ashore, he was born with the salt of the Cape running through his veins. Once settled in Wellfleet, he became a well-known and beloved personality in town. His family and friends recognized that he always spoke his mind, always with quick wit.
Stopping to talk to Jerry meant you would likely be late for your next engagement. And you listened, even if you were hearing the story for the second time. He was a natural entertainer and storyteller.
“His stories,” wrote Gina Picozzi-Roulston in a remembrance, “always made me laugh and brightened my day.”
Jerry made a good living in Wellfleet. He was the sole proprietor of Briarmead Building and Realty, which he founded in 1984. In 1991 he acquired Wellfleet Village Mobil, taking ownership the week before Hurricane Bob hit New England. Jean remembers the gas station losing power for days, rendering the electronic cash register useless. Jerry improvised, using the top of the car lift to store the money.
Jerry gave many Wellfleet kids their first paying jobs, teaching them what hard work looked like. “When I first started with Mobil, Jerry was one of my biggest supporters,” said Gina. “He turned into a great friend.”
Jerry retired from both of his businesses in 2018.
Beyond giving people their first jobs, he gave many second chances. He was always willing to help someone in need. Jean recalls when one of Jerry’s customers stopped by the Mobil station in need of help. The young man, recently divorced, was strapped for cash. Jerry gave him what he needed, with no strings attached.
Jerry loved dogs, and two Labradors were especially important to him. His first Lab, Rudder, died six years ago, after which Jerry adopted another, Baxter, whose owner had recently died. Baxter immediately bonded with Jerry, who teasingly referred to him as “a used dog.” Baxter always rode shotgun in Jerry’s Jeep on their frequent drives to the pier.
Since Jerry’s death, Baxter has been sitting patiently at the top of the driveway, waiting for him to come home.
Jerry had a deep love of fishing. His ritual was to release the first catch of the year. His friends wish him calm breezes and tight lines.
Jerry is survived by his wife of 53 years, Jean; his three daughters, Michelle Connors and husband Charles of Eastham, Aime Bessette and husband Peter Lennon of Wellfleet, and Brooke Shea and partner TJ of Berkeley. He also leaves five grandchildren, Alex, Meghan, Campbell, Mackenzie, and Brad, and his two dogs, Cappy and Baxter. He is also survived by his sister, Ellen O’Brien of Holbrook, and nephews Michael and Matthew.
A celebration of Jerry’s life will be held in the spring.
Donations in Jerry’s honor can be made to the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Fund at P.O. Box 442, Wellfleet 02667.