Fond Farewell: Retired University Farm Mechanic Jerry Miguel
Our hearts are heavy to share the news that retired University Farm mechanic Jerry Miguel passed away on February 15. He was 76.
Born in Chico on January 20, 1947, Miguel’s life was deeply rooted in the Portuguese and farming communities. He was an almond farmer and mechanic throughout his adult life and spent 27 years repairing and maintaining the equipment at the University Farm.
Miguel was hired as the shop mechanic in 1983. Though he spent most of his time from then until his 2010 retirement torquing on tractors and other machines, those who worked with him say his greatest tools were the patience he showed to the students and faculty and his deep affection for the farm.
“Jerry was not only responsible for safety and compliance, but he also had to fix everybody’s mistakes and screw-ups,” said University Farm Administrator Dave Daley. “With all the students learning how things work, and then a lot of the faculty who weren’t necessarily mechanical, things were bound to break. Jerry put up with a lot and took great care of all that we had.”
Leslie Vermillion, who worked with Miguel at the farm for 20 years, appreciated his perspective as a University employee.
“He was very patient because it was a learning environment. This was the students’ chance to learn how to operate equipment, take care of it, and listen for warning signals,” Vermillion said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t always hear those warning signals. But when something did go wrong, he was always patient with the students and let them learn through that process.”
Daley, Vermillion, and fellow former University Farm employee Chris Gibson all remember Miguel as a quiet man who took his job very seriously. They also all shared ways in which he showed kindness to them and devotion to the University Farm.
“Looking at Jerry, you see this serious farmer type,” Gibson said. “But he was a diamond in the rough. It took a little polishing, but he was a very thoughtful and caring person. I remember the way he introduced me to folks I needed to know when I first got hired. No one had ever done that for me in any other job I’d had. He was also creative in the ways he kept older equipment going while seeking out ways to get new equipment when the time was right. He did all he could to make the farm the best place it could be.”
They all said Miguel’s favorite times on the farm were when his daughters, Christine and Aimee, visited.
When Miguel wasn’t working on machinery at the farm, he was doing it at home. He enjoyed restoring farm equipment and was active in an antique tractor club.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Sherri. They were married in 1971 and celebrated their 50th anniversary less than two years ago. Miguel is survived by daughters Christine (Agriculture, ’00) and Aimee (Liberal Studies, ’04; Credential, ’05), who are both Chico State alumna, sons-in-law Ron Mikes and Ryan Alarid, grandchildren Kadie, Grady, Paige, Bentley, and Colby, and sister-in-law Debbi Mattson.
The University flag will be lowered Tuesday, March 21, in his memory. Also on March 21, a vigil for Miguel will be held at 7 p.m. at Brusie’s Funeral Home. The funeral will take place on March 22 at 10:30 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church.