Farewell Uncle Jerry! Reverend George Gerald Martinson S.J. Having Served Taiwan Half A Century Dies in A Heart Attack


Taiwan Church News
3409 Edition
June 26 – July 2, 2017

Farewell Uncle Jerry! Reverend George Gerald Martinson S.J. Having Served Taiwan Half A Century Dies in A Heart Attack

Reported by Lin Yi-yin

“I don’t know my brother is so poor!”, voiced in a quite surprised tone by Fr Barry Martinson, who is Fr George Martinson’s younger brother, after he went to take up his brother’s remains and found only some money left with an old broken bicycle.

In the early morning on May 31, Fr George Gerald Martinson, 1942 – 2017, was found passed away in a prayer gesture beside his bed at dormitory above Kwangchi Program Service(KPS). A a Jesuit, following the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Fr Martinson dedicated his whole life and ministries to Kwang Chi Society – a mass communication media for Taiwan society. Renown as “Uncle Jerry” on TV screen, Fr Martinson always humbly called himself “a priest very much unlike normally conceived!”

Born on December 2, 1942, at San Diego, California, to Glenn and Lily Martinson, Fr Martinson attend the Society of Jesus in 1960. After receiving a master degree in philosophy, Fr Martinson was sent to Taiwan in 1967. After spending several years in studying Chinese, envolving in social service and taking theological studies, Fr Martinson started to serve in KPS till his last day.

In Taiwan, Fr Martinson was best known as “Uncle Jerry” in KPS’s educational TV show “Giraffe English”, which encourages the children to learn English. As vice president of KPS, Fr Martinson was also very keen about social issues related to the poor and produced TV programs to raise social concern to the marginalized, including aborigines, immigrant spouses, migrant workers, physically and mentally disabled people, victims of natural disasters and etc.

Noteworthy is that a documentary, Beyond the Killing Fields: Refugees on the Thai-Cambodian Border, produced and directed by Fr Martinson also received the Best Documentary Award at the 1986 Golden Horse Awards and the Best Short Film Award at the 1987 Asia Pacific Film Festival. This documentary revealed Fr Martinson’s love and care went beyond national borders to witness God’s agape.

In the farewell funeral of Fr Martinson, Pope Francis sent his condolence to his families and said he was grateful “the Lord has given us Uncle Jerry,” and that a lot of people in Taiwan, China and Asia loved him and missed him so much. President Tsai Ing-wen also expressed her deep appreciation in memory of Fr Martinson, saying in a tweet that he was a bona fide Taiwanese who dedicated decades of his life to Taiwan and deserves “our respect
and gratitude!”

Translated by Peter Wolfe