A homeless vet died in Saint Paul and people noticed

The efforts of Pioneer Press reporter Mara Gottfried to help find the family of a homeless vet who froze to death in a St. Paul park is the type of story to make you want to call that relative with whom you’ve lost touch.

It would have been easy to leave the death of Jerome Jackson in Indian Mounds Park at a single paragraph and moved on to more important stories; it’s been done thousands of times and he was just a homeless guy.

But Gottfried, the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office, and the public didn’t want to and that’s the takeaway from the story. People gave a damn.

After the Pioneer Press published an article on Tuesday about the search for Jackson’s family, Gottfried writes today, people stepped forward with clues.

One man who called the medical examiner’s office said he was a genealogist and had done research after seeing the article, Hedican said. He provided information about Jackson’s brother that turned out to be correct, and police notified Don Jackson in Freeman, Mo.

“I’d been really expecting this call for the last couple of years,” Don Jackson said Tuesday. “There was just no way the outcome for him was going to be positive because of the schizophrenia.”

Preliminary information is that Jerry Jackson died of exposure, although an official ruling awaits toxicology results, Hedican said.

Jerry Jackson was the youngest of three children; they grew up in St. Paul’s Midway area, Don Jackson said.

He and his brother weren’t in touch much over the past three decades, but Don Jackson remembered him as a boy.
“He was a cute little devil, he was the one all the girls liked,” Don Jackson said. “We were always getting in trouble, but it was the fun kind of trouble. We used to get on our bikes and take off for the day. If our parents told us to stay in shouting distance of the house, we’d probably be two, three miles away.”

Jackson had gotten help at the VA, but stopped going, his brother said, suspecting he just didn’t want to live life anymore.

Parishioners at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in St. Paul, of which Jackson was a member, are trying to figure out how to honor Jackson’s life.