Who says you can’t come home again?
January 25, 2013
In 1975, Jere Calmes was named outstanding employee of the year at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, the East Coast publishing company where he worked. The prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to Barbados. Calmes asked if he could instead go to a quaint ski town out West called Park City. The company agreed and off he went. It was love at first sight. A week later he returned, promptly resigned and moved here.
A rash decision? Perhaps. But for Calmes it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to live in the mountains, a dream which took form during childhood visits to the Appalachians.
Calmes never looked back. He took root here, plunging into Park City life with a flair, all the while maintaining a long-distance job with another publishing house.
He joined the local community theater company at the historic Egyptian Theatre and appeared in many shows. Never a shrinking violet, he was always willing to engage in lively, erudite discussions at local watering holes. Many fellow drinkers fell victim to his quick wit, prodigious intellect and razor-sharp tongue, all in fun. Far-ranging commentaries on the human condition usually culminated in his trademark, tongue-in-cheek observation, "Nobody cares." He was, in short, a fixture of Park City life throughout the 1980s. When changing fortunes forced him to take a leave of absence from the town in 1989, Calmes mourned.
During his self-imposed exile from his beloved, adopted hometown, Calmes ranged far and wide. He worked for a succession of publishing houses and spent a year in Russia as a visiting professor at Moscow University. In 2000, he moved to San Clemente, Calif., to accept a position with Entrepreneur magazine, a job he held until his retirement in 2011. At age 71, he looked homeward once again.
Now, more than twenty years removed from his reluctant departure, he’s come home. "I was very excited about coming back," he says. "I haven’t been back to my real hometown for 50 years. Park City is where my heart is. The years I spent here were the happiest of my life. My children grew up here. I came back to a place I loved." Comfortably ensconced in his recently-remodeled condominium on Daly Avenue (which he never sold during his decades away), he reflects on his life and his long journey home.
Born in Lancaster, Penn., in 1940, Calmes grew up a classic Norman Rockwell kid, playing back-lot baseball and working a paper route at age eight. In high school, he nurtured an interest in history, which would later flower. Along the way his nascent résumé revealed a succession of amusing job titles, from chicken plucker (at the local deli), to putter packer (for Wilson Sporting Goods), to butter cutter (for Land O’Lakes).
After graduating from high school, Calmes attended DePauw University in Indiana, earning a bachelor’s degree in history with a German language minor. He went on to earn a master’s degree in history at the University of Kentucky. "History is alive; it’s the blueprint for the future, for better or worse," says Calmes.
After college, a brief encounter with corporate America working at 3M Company convinced him that his future lay elsewhere. When a friend and mentor suggested he consider the publishing business, Calmes took the leap. It was a perfect fit and became his career for life.
Calmes met his first wife while at Depauw. They married in 1962 and had two children, Erin and Jere, both of whom he describes as "highly independent, athletic, intelligent and adventurous."
Calmes clearly prefers to talk about his children rather than himself. He explains with pride that daughter Erin is a videographer and producer who has worked for National Geographic, Animal Channel and Greenpeace. Son Jere has lived and worked internationally in the telecommunications business for several years. He was co-founder of what is now the largest telecom company in Russia and has also lived in Egypt, Dubai and England.
Calmes says he has no intention of ever leaving this town again. "A lot has changed since I left, but it’s still Park City and it still feels like home. Some people have left and some have died. We’ve all aged. I’m here for good and I’ve already picked out my plot. I have no intention of dying anywhere else."
Calmes does have one regret. "I had to give up my 1,200-volume library because there’s just not room in my condo," he laments. "It included a pretty extensive collection of Civil War history books, about 45 boxes full." The good news: He donated all 1,200 volumes to the Park City Library. "They’re not my books anymore, but I can visit them anytime I want," he chuckles.
Calmes’ odyssey has come full circle and he wouldn’t have it any other way. These days you’ll often find him jousting with old friends during happy hour at Adolph’s. If you’re looking for lively conversation, stop by and say hello. Welcome home, Jere, and thanks for the books. See, somebody does care.
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Favorite things to do: Ski, hike, bike, walk
Favorite foods: Burgers, pork roast Greek style, lamb, cold cuts, eggs, butter, bacon, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers. "Yes, I am overweight."
Favorite reading: History
Favorite music: Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, folk, country & western
Bucket list: Travel to Alaska; visit historic European battlefields, learn to fly fish.