Jerry and Kris Cadagan


Jerry CadaganFollowing his death earlier in the year, a celebration of Jerry's life was held in June 2015 at the clubhouse at Lake Merced in San Francisco. Why this venue? Ten years ago this urban lake was unusable because of chemical runoffs from nearby golf courses and general mismanagement. Jerry spear-headed a long campaign to get Lake Merced cleaned up. As we saw at the celebration, Lake Merced is in full use by boaters, fishermen, birders, joggers, etc., as a prime urban recreation spot.

People who have known Jerry back to college days talked of his multi-faceted life. Corporate lawyer, Publisher of California Water Law Journal, policy wonk (water issues), river rat, environmentalist, non-profit Board member, etc. All the recollections were about a mix of serious accomplishments and not so serious sidebars. No surprise. He was thoroughly appreciated for a wide variety reasons.


His email address was SocialChair, and this was one of his feature roles with the Tortugas. He along with wife Kris and Willy Chamberlin organized many of our Reunions: they made the arrangements, took care of details and saw to it that the reunions were great events. He also was part of the ad-hoc group that set up the Tortuga Endowment at CMC, and from its inception he was the point person in keeping all of us informed about the progress in fund raising and the selection of Tortuga scholars. He also was the keeper of much Tortuga memorabilia, fitting his role as one time Pledge Master and instigator/participant in a variety of non academic ventures on and off campus.


At the celebration, about a dozen Tortugateers were present, and both Tony Arnold and Pete Mattson spoke eloquently of their long friendship with Jerry.

Here is Tony's commentary:

After rain the empty mountain
Stands in the autumn evening,
Moonlight in its groves of pine,
Stones like crystal in its brooks.
Bamboos whisper of washer-girls bound home,
Lotus-leaves yield before a fisher-boat ---
And what does it matter that springtime has gone,
When you will always be here, O ye Prince of Friends.

Jean and I consider ourselves privileged to have shared time with both Kris and Jerry last summer in Sonora. Picture a warm and lovely evening at the Cadagan house, with Jerry unwinding after having invested his mandatory daily minimum of six water wonk hours on the computer, and Kris being the classic charming, patient but always slightly caustic hostess keeping him in check. About halfway through the meal and after a number of glasses of good California wine, Jerry jumps up and runs into another room. Then he returns with an easel and a sequence of professionally printed charts and graphs on large posterboard. While his grilled fresh salmon gets colder and colder, he enthusiastically relates for us the presentation on agricultural well drilling he is to deliver to Tuolumne County officials the next morning. He isn't practicing – he is proselytizing – just making sure he has two more converts.

Jerry is now embarking on the fabulous adventure that ultimately awaits us all. Each of us, in our own individual way, can imagine it.

When you go to Yosemite and hike to the base of upper Yosemite Falls, in a good year you see hundreds of tons of water thundering down the sheer rock face. But before it reaches the bottom of its dramatic and famous drop, it has already changed form. It is now gossamer, a mist that loses shape but still is. Behind the falls, you may see a fairly short figure with that familiar white goatee. But wait! Wait a minute! This is not W. C. Fields with chin whiskers. This is not Colonel Saunders on the Adkins diet. You know this man! He laughs and waves, and he's calling to you, "Come on in, the water – the wonderful, wonderful water - is just fine!" Then, in an instant he's gone; he's disappeared into the magic mist that finally dissolves, with its particles scattering all across the sunlit mountainside. If you've ever been there,you can imagine it.

So – how then, do we best send Jerry on his merry way?

Well, topping a lower pass in the land of the Sherpa and Yeti is a small cairn with an opening on the eastern side for offerings. Rag strips, called wind prayers, are left there to bring good luck to travelers crossing over for the first time. Today we all offer our wind prayer for a delightful and exhilarating journey to Jerry. The prayer will be heard, for when the pupil asks, "What happens when the leaves are falling and the ground is cold and the trees so bare?" the zen master responds, "Ah, the golden wind,revealed!" Jerry will hear our wind prayer,because he indeed rides the golden wind now.

And here is Jerry's charge back to the rest of us: When you leave today, honor him, by attacking the day, and the next day and then the day after, with the same vigor that was his personal trademark. Challenge people. Reason through negative responses. Laugh. Persevere. Give back to your community. And above all, be steadfast and always try to do the right thing.



Jerry Cadagan

Wife of Jerry Cadagan, Kris died in an automobile accident Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014. An extensive memorial celebration was held in January 2015 near Sausalito, California, and was attended by several hundred people, including a large contingent of Tortugateers.

Kris was an indispensable force in getting our various reunions organized and carried-out. Jerry provided much of the motivation, but Kris was there doing a lot of the heavy lifting, before and especially during the reunions.

Many of the photos on the website were taken by Kris, especially the panoramic group pictures.

At the ceremony, Willy Chamberlin took the microphone, and after consultation with Tony Arnold and some of the other elderly rascals who were present, proudly named Kris as the first posthumous honorary Tortugateer. Those of us who spent time with the Cadagans surely can still hear her voice, calling “CADAGAN, KNOCK IT OFF”.