Many Point Isabel (PI) regulars know Jerry Yukic by sight. A tall, determined-looking woman in her 90s, she can be seen many mornings – accompanied by her Brittany Spaniel, Dusty – enjoying a coffee at the Sit and Stay Café. But few know Jerry’s fascinating backstory: Olympics hopeful, tireless advocate for girls’ sports, author of several thrillers available on Amazon, and longtime dog-walking activist who has helped keep PI off-leash for the past 30 years.
She was born Eleanor Clarke – her family nicknamed her “Jerry” – in Anaheim, California, when the future home of Disneyland had just 5,000 residents. She went to high school in Santa Monica, reveling in beach volleyball and ocean swimming after classes. She was a star swimmer at UCLA, although her hopes of competing at breaststroke in the Olympic Games were dashed by World War II. Her future husband was a prisoner of war in Germany for some time; he and Jerry met when they were both earning master’s degrees in education at UC Berkeley after the war.
Jerry had started out studying chemistry in college but realized that through sports “you could do a lot for girls.” And she has: Thanks to her focus on physical education, many women now in their 60s and older have Jerry to thank for adventures that included backpacking before it was popular and 50-mile canoe trips. During her career, Jerry taught phys ed at Santa Monica High School, Berkeley High School, and San Francisco State; was the Solano County executive director of the Campfire Girls for 10 years; and served as financial administrator for an Oakland-based nonprofit that worked with developmentally disabled kids.
Along the way, she has always had dogs. Growing up, she had mostly small dogs, but as an adult she upsized to German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. An early adopter of the PI off-leash experience, Jerry began visiting PI when it was “basically a rubble heap,” she says. The parking lots were frequented by drug dealers and North Point Isabel (a former dumping ground for industrial waste) was still fenced off.
Gradually the area improved; the unsavory elements were driven away by the increasing recreational traffic, and the landfill was cleaned up and capped. Then, in 1985, the East Bay Regional Park District decided that dogs needed to be on-leash at PI. Dogwalkers organized to negotiate off-leash rules, which is how Point Isabel Dog Owners & Friends (PIDO) came about. The resistance was led by the late Sylvia Schild, whom Jerry remembers as an extremely persuasive person.
“I ran into Sylvia, and the next thing I knew, I was filling poop bag boxes,” Jerry says.
Thus began more than 30 years of advocacy for recreation at Point Isabel. Jerry has organized, written articles, spoken at public hearings, and more to ward off threats to PI that have ranged from turning North PI into a golf course to rezoning the area to allow fast-food restaurants and department stores. She is particularly proud of how welcoming and safe PI is for older people.
Jerry recently retired from PIDO’s Board after 20
years. Thank you, Jerry!