Jeremiah “Jerry” Wolfe, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Beloved Man, passed away Monday at the age of 93.
The Cherokee of Jerry Wolfe’s early memory is a different place than the Qualla Boundary of today.
Wolfe, 93, remembers hills covered in farmland rather than forest, cleared by hand to keep the trees from encroaching on slopes families coaxed to yield the corn, beans and potatoes that fueled them. The weedy edges of fields yielded blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. The woods yielded fuel for winter heat in the log cabins and, when the family ran out of kerosene, knots of pine sap that could ignite to keep the lights on.
A life of service to country, culture and global community has earned Jerry Wolfe the state of North Carolina’s highest award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Wolfe received the award in a surprise ceremony accompanying the July 25 Folkmoot USA performance at Cherokee Central High School.
Jerry Wolfe is a storyteller. Whether he’s telling a story of his people at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian or retelling his years spent in the U.S. Navy, the 91-year-old remembers every detail.