As a child, Jerry Grim would draw horses and cowboys.
“I’ve always been interested in art,” he said.
As he matured, that yearning to create continued to stir. Grim, a Bloomfield, Missouri, native, credits Mr. Blanchard, his high school art teacher, for truly inspiring him and setting him on his path. He was “really friendly with the kids and taught us a lot,” Grim said of his former teacher.
It was at Samuel Morris High School in San Diego, California, that Grim crossed paths with Mr. Blanchard after Grim’s family relocated, a move necessitated by his father’s service in the U.S. Navy.
After high school, Grim, himself, pursued a military path in the U.S. Army, serving as a medic with the 1st Cavalry Air Assault Division in Vietnam, the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Upon completion of his duty, he returned to southeast Missouri where his grandparents were living. True to his childhood passion, he enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University with the benefit of the G.I. Bill, where he, once again, turned his attention to art – art education.
His paintings took center stage at his SEMO senior art show, and the craft, along with Batique, and etching, remain among his favorite forms of expression.
While making his way through college, he served as an orderly and emergency room technician at Saint Francis Medical Center, where he earned the distinction for illustrating the hospital’s first cookbook. Upon his graduation from Southeast in 1971, he was hired to teach art at Puxico High School, where he remained for three years, until accepting a position as an art teacher at Notre Dame High School (NDHS).
That decision forever changed the trajectory of his life. And other than a brief respite from 1979 to 1982 when Grim thought he’d try his hand in the business world, Notre Dame helped him spawn a storied 33-year career as a mightily respected art teacher and coach.
Over the years, he taught Art I, II and III, and thousands of Notre Dame students grew their talents under his tutelage. Many of his former students have gone on to excel in the visual arts. Two have followed in his footsteps – Ryan Long (’11) and Doug Dirnberger (’84) – who currently teach art at Notre Dame. Another is an architect, a couple are art educators in the Jackson R-II School District and others continue to enjoy painting as a hobby.
Regardless of the vocation his former students have chosen, Grim says “it just makes me awful proud that they remember you years later. I love my students. There is nothing I would not do for them.”
By day, Grim helped his students explore a variety of visual art forms. Outside of the school day, he shared his talents throughout the building where his own artwork is both prevalent and prominent. He designed and screenprinted most of the musical posters in Notre Dame’s lobby. The one publicizing “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” remains his favorite.
“I just like that story and how the poster turned out,” Grim said.
His handiwork also resulted in the bulldog painted on the east end of the school gym, above the “Dawg Pound,” though Grim, his own critic, says he’s never been entirely happy with the result.
He also is responsible for creating the St. Francis mural at the entrance to the high school’s Drury Hall, a work inspired following a trip he and his wife took to Assisi. He says he started with a sketch, then enlarged it to create an 8-foot-by-12-foot canvas. The hermitage depicted in the mural is a representation of the place where a religious experience with Francis of Assisi took place on Sept. 17, 1224. This was the first time in human history that the stigmata was recorded.
Grim’s work is also on display each Lenten season when the Cross of Hope is centrally located in the Notre Dame Commons. The Cross of Hope, a 1979 class project Grim facilitated, has served the school during Lent for more than 40 years. When the crucifix was conceived in the 1970s at Notre Dame’s former location along Ritter Drive, the theology classroom was connected to the Notre Dame Chapel, separated only by a divider. When the divider was closed, the theology classroom was the only room in the school without a crucifix. This prompted a discussion that led to Grim along with Edgewater Glass assisting the class in building the crucifix.
It stands eight feet tall and is made from two 2-by10 pieces of weathered cypress board, and broken pieces of mirror, with each shard serving as a reflection of the class of 1979. The broken pieces of glass represent the brokenness, sadness and pain that are a part of death. When death touches students in the future, the cross can serve as a reminder that they do not face death alone, but with Jesus, together with those reflected in the mirror, who will help them through their struggles.
In addition to the Cross of Hope, Grim has painted many of the statues featured throughout the building, including the Virgin Mary at the end of the main hallway and another of St. Francis. He and retired science teacher Jim Glastetter spent summers constructing the Holy Family Grotto on the school grounds, and the two are responsible for the landscape brick sidewalks around the school’s exterior.
He also helped design the emblem and assemble the Performing and Visual Arts (PAVA) Hall of Fame plaques on the Commons’ north wall. In addition, many years ago, he created the backdrop for the musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” along with the cow and the chicken – crafted with canvases stretched over 2-by-4s — that continue to appear in performances of “Into the Woods.”
“Art is fun,” Grim said. “It lets you free yourself and do what you want to do.”
He hopes he imparted that wisdom on his students.
Grim retired from teaching in 2007 while continuing as boys’ golf coach until 2011. He’s widely heralded for his 25 years coaching Notre Dame girls’ basketball.
“I always loved art, but I enjoyed the girls’ basketball too,” he said.
Grim is among the 2022 class to be inducted into Notre Dame Regional High School’s Performing and Visual Arts (PAVA) Hall of Fame during a luncheon April 9.
PAVA recognizes Notre Dame alumni or past or present faculty who have excelled in the performing or visual arts – dance, music, theatre and visual arts. PAVA inductees serve as role models of achievement for current and future students, instilling in them the knowledge that they, too, are capable of personal and professional success.
“A lot of good people are in there, a lot of my old students,” Grim said of PAVA. “It’s neat to be a part of it. It’s a great thing.”
With the induction, Grim will now be a member of both of Notre Dame’s distinguished Halls, having also been inducted into Notre Dame’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
During Grim’s athletic career, Bulldogs girls’ basketball won 441 games, made five state final fours and won one state title in 2002 in Class 2A. In all five trips to the final four, Notre Dame made the state championship game, including three straight from 2001 to 2003. The Bulldogs also were runners-up in 1995 and 1997, and won 11 district titles.
Following his 25th season in 2007 at the helm of girls’ basketball, Grim was honored with the school naming its basketball court the “Jerry Grim Court”. After retiring from coaching in May 2007, the honors continued in June when he was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
In addition to his well-known accomplishments in leading the girls’ basketball program, he helped launch the softball program in 1976, then coached the softball team for 23 years. He’s worn many hats; he’s served as boys’ freshmen basketball coach and was the school’s longtime golf coach.
His impact on students both on the court, on the course and in the classroom is enormous.
“I had some great kids,” Grim said. “That’s what I miss most is my interaction with the kids. I hope the kids realized how much I love them.”
Grim and his late wife, JoAnne “Jody” Grim, are the parents of four children – Stephen, Jeffrey, Erin and Brian. They have six grandchildren.