Jerome "Jerry" David Countess
December 22, 1920 – March 18, 2020
To access the archived live stream service, go to: http://webcast.dignitymemorial.com/events/login/26245; Memorial ID: 26245; Password: 6S2X3.
Jerome D. “Jerry” Countess (and affectionately “Greatness” to his family), passed away on Thursday, March 18, 2020 at University Medical Center, Las Vegas, NV. He was proceeded in death by his son, Michael Countess; and his loving wife, Rachel Joy Countess. He is survived by his children, Jonathan (Julie) Countess and Jane (Richard Seda) Countess; grandchildren, Michael (Susan) Hoffman, Jessica (John Gormley) Countess, and Joshua (Kirsten Wong) Countess; great grandchildren Jocelyn, Nora and Lincoln; and countless friends. Jerry grew up in Brooklyn, New York, during the Great Depression. In his early teens, he visited the public library almost daily and became an avid reader and then an avid writer. He couldn’t afford to go to college with his friends, so to reconnect with them, he took a night course at Brooklyn College. That course introduced him to poetry and he fell in love with it. Just before the start of WW II, Jerry met Rachel Ganis, and he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. In 1942 he enlisted in the army and was a “dogface” in the 1st Infantry Division and was a highly decorated combat veteran (2 Bronze Stars and a Silver Star) as the division crushed Rommel’s army in North Africa and invaded Sicily. He was transferred to II Corp and moved up the boot of Italy where he was in the thick of things as the Germans finally surrendered in 1945. The war did not deter Jerry from keeping in constant contact with Rachel. He wrote over 300 letters, many containing poetry, to her while in the field. The letters recounted the hardships, heartbreak and even humor of the war and of course, his undying love for her. Many of the letters were just poems. Poetry required less paper (which was in short supply) than prose. In fact, some of those poems were written on the only paper he had - - - toilet paper! In total, the letters are a revealing history of the life of a soldier. These letters were later the basis for his brilliant book, Letters from the Battlefield, In Love and War. After the war, in 1945, Jerry and Rachel were married. Jerry used the G.I. Bill to study writing at New York University while Rachel continued to be a nurse. They bought a house and together, Rachel and Jerry and three children, Jon, Michael and Jane. With no formal training, he started three successful businesses. Then, in 1968, he started a new chapter in his life and began a successful career with the United Jewish Appeal, first as a fundraiser, and then as an executive in their New York headquarters. This success led to him accepting a job as the Executive Director of the Las Vegas Jewish Federation. When Jerry came to Las Vegas from New York he changed everything at the Federation. Finally, The Federation had a clear direction. Jerry suggested new ways to do things and brought young people onto the board, reaching out to a diverse group of doctors, lawyers, business people, and women. Jerry instituted new programs and instilled a sense of energy, purpose and fun. Everybody’s opinion counted and everyone contributed. And he let those who did the work take credit for it. In short, he was a great leader. As a result, the Federation became more relevant and became more involved in the greater community. He made a difference. Jerry was an integral part of the extended family he gained by marrying Rachel. He loved hosting family dinners, especially at Thanksgiving with up to 50 family in attendance. Friends became family. He loved to entertain anyone who was in town. And he always had a martini ready before dinner. Their house was a gathering place and open to all. He also enjoyed traveling, gardening, and of course writing. If it was a weekend you would find him out in the backyard either planting, mowing, trimming or just hanging out by the pool with his wife enjoying life. After retiring from the Federation, Jerry pursued his passion for writing. He wrote novels, short stories and poetry. He has many fans who loved his stories and of course Letters from the Battlefield. Jerry and Rae traveled to Hawaii frequently, and to other parts of the Pacific and to Italy, where he was able to see the transformation of that country from the war ruins of his previous time there. He travelled to Russia for background for one of his books, and he made frequent trips to Israel as part of his work at the Federation. And of course, Jerry had a wonderful soul mate who had a life of her own. Rachel was a registered nurse, first with the army during the war then at a variety of hospitals until they moved to Las Vegas. Once in Las Vegas, Rae continued her nursing career, as she became a volunteer at area hospitals, racking up more than 10,000 hours of volunteer service. Rae and Jerry certainly deserve to be known as part of the Greatest Generation. A funeral service was held at King David Memorial Chapel and burial followed at Palm Valley View Cemetery. King David Memorial Chapel handled the arrangements.
- Live Stream Funeral Service Monday, March 23, 2020
Jerome "Jerry" David Countess
March 23, 2020
We have fond memories of the days when Jerry was Director of the Jewish Federation in Las Vegas. We were “youngsters” back then and ready to be involved in the community. Some of us got together and helped Jerry with young leadership. Jerry helped us by inviting the top young Jewish rabbis and speakers to come in each month and teach our group. It was amazing then, but especially so looking back on those days, knowing where those speakers are today. We had Deborah Lipstadt, Joseph Telushkin, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved come here repeatedly because Jerry asked them to! That was the level of respect Jerry had. We also enjoyed a special relationship with Jerry and Rae. Of course, time is hard to keep up with and we lost touch with them, other than running into them occasionally. But nothing can take away the wonderful memories of those early years here and how Jerry played such an important role in our learning the importance of giving back to our community. Our thoughts and prayers go to Jerry and Rae’s family, all the grandchildren and great grandchildren. Jerry was part of the Greatest Generation, for sure.
Melanie and Gene
March 23, 2020
I am related to Jerry on the Ganis side of the family, his wife Rachel was our great aunts sister to Flo Israel. Because of East Coast distance from the West Coast we didn’t know Jerry & Rachel, we were very close to Dave & Flo. We never made the connection that Jerry & Rachel moved to Las Vegas mostly because our families were so many. I met Jerry approx 8 years ago because I found one of his letters probably intended for his book. My parents had a house fire many years ago and this letter was in the photo collection that survived the fire. I knew this letter needed to be returned to him. Thank goodness for the internet I was able to locate him and connect with him. I was able to travel to Las Vegas and return the letter to him. For the past many years I visited Jerry several times a year and as spoken, Jerry prepared dinner for us in his home, we toured his garden, and had a martini. We celebrated Jerry’s 95th with all his family a amazing day. Jerry will always be in our hearts and remembered as the greatest generation. RIP 😘
Marcia & Tim Davis
Santa Clarita, Ca
March 23, 2020
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I'm keeping my memories of visiting uncle Jerry forever. Sorry, Mayor Goodman.
March 22, 2020
Jerry Countess will always be remembered by the Jewish Las Vegas Community as a pioneer and founder of organizations that still serve the community. Our parents, Eli and Doris Welt, both of blessed memory, spent many hours with Jerry and Ray during those years. Our thoughts are with the family today. Jerry & Marcy Welt
"In 1975, following in his desire to move west, Jerome (Jerry) Countess took the job of executive director of the Combined Jewish Appeal in Las Vegas, what would soon be renamed the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas (renamed again in the mid 2000's as Jewish Nevada) Under his leadership, the Federation started the Jewish Family Service as well as The Jewish Reporter, a monthly publication to promote engagement of the Jewish community. Jerry served as the executive director of the Federation for many years, serving at the pleasure of many board members and presidents, including the first female Federation president, Dorothy Eisenberg." (The UNLV University Libraries' Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project)