It’s 155 days until Hoopfest 2012, and if things had worked out differently, Jerry Talley would be on the basketball court in Peaceful Valley getting ready – snow or no snow.
Jerry Talley was a tall, good-looking Native American man who his friends called the King of Peaceful Valley. Most of the time you could see him at the basketball court near Main Avenue and Maple Street in his beloved Peaceful Valley just downhill west of downtown Spokane. He’d be there for a pick-up game with any and all takers – the first one on the court and the last one to leave it.
When the 72-year-old Talley died of cancer last April, his friends got together to create a memorial for him, one they deemed fitting for the man who loved the game so much. Neighbors Laurel and John McKinney and Tod Marshall worked with Talley’s friends – who, they said, meant just about everybody who ever met him – to raise the money, and then, in cooperation with the city Parks Department, had a sign installed on the gable of the basketball shelter in Peaceful Valley. It reads: “One More. In Honor of basketball player Jerry Talley who, in his eighth decade inspired others to play ‘one more game.’ ”
“I think he would have liked that,” Laurel McKinney said.
Jerry Talley had a large personality and gregarious nature, his friends recall. “I couldn’t walk by his house without having at least a 10-minute conversation,” Tod Marshall said.
Talley grew up poor on the Rosebud Reservation in Oklahoma and never did make a lot of money in his life, said McKinney, who hired him to fix up their rentals. “He was the strongest man I ever met.” And because of his striking appearance, he was cast as an extra in many of the films made in Spokane in the past 15 years.
She said he met the love of his life, Roberta, when he was a young Marine. He spotted her through a window and made it his business to find her, the result being that they had a nearly 50-year marriage, which only ended with her death in 2010. “Honestly, they were like perpetually in-love adolescents,” McKinney said.
The Talleys settled in Spokane, where he worked for a plastics injection molding company until retiring about 10 years ago. A gifted athlete, he was always generous with his time – and always on the basketball court. Marshall’s son Henry plays for Lewis and Clark High School, and Talley would rebound for him on the Peaceful Valley court for as long as Henry wanted – and also attend his AAU and high school games.
“I ran around the court pretty well, and my son could run even longer, but Jerry kept playing, always urging us on for one more game,” said Marshall, who played on Talley’s Hoopfest team for several years.
His prowess on the court was duly noted, and he was featured in The Spokesman-Review’s 2010 Hoopfest special edition, where it was observed that at age 71, he was the oldest registered Hoopfest player.
Tod Marshall speaks for the neighborhood when he adds that “we really miss him, especially every time we get a game up or somebody takes a Jerry shot.” A Jerry shot is described a long one-arm jump shot.
“But don’t think he was gentle out there,” Marshall said. “You had to look out for those elbows of his. No matter how much he loved you, he was very physical and wouldn’t hesitate to smack you on the court.”
He was just so darned friendly, said McKinney, who recalled one of her favorite stories about him: “Jerry walked everywhere, and one day he was walking up toward downtown from Peaceful Valley and saw a parade. One of the people welcomed him and asked him to join, which of course he did. It was a nice walk, and Jerry was having nice conversations, when he began to notice that some of the people were dressed a little unusually, like the man next to him who was wearing a pink boa. Turns out it was a gay rights parade. He had a good laugh and kept on walking with everyone.
“Interesting and probably because of his appearance, the cameras of the TV stations covering the parade seemed to gravitate to him – and there he was on the TV news that night. That was just so Jerry!”