A former White House employee who served under 11 United States presidents died of COVID-19 this month, US media reported on Wednesday.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, 91, was one of the White House’s longest-serving employees, working in various positions, including cleaner, doorman and butler from 1957 to 2012.
“I want the world to remember my grandfather as someone who is really authentic,” Jerman’s granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told FOX 5, the local Fox affiliate in Washington, DC.
She said that he taught his family to “always be yourself” and that is “what we will continue to carry on through his legacy”.
Garrett said her grandfather started in the White House as a cleaner under the administration of Dwight D Eisenhower. He was promoted to the butler position under former President John F Kennedy after developing a good relationship with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Garrett told FOX 5.
Tonight on @fox5dc at 10p –
He served at the pleasure of 11 U.S. Presidents… during his 55 years at the White House.
Last weekend, he passed from COVID-19.
My exclusive interview with the granddaughter of White House butler, Wilson Jerman is next! pic.twitter.com/SBiXbQLiud
— ShawnYancy (@ShawnYancyTV) May 20, 2020
Shanta Taylor Gay, who is also a granddaughter of Jerman, told CNN that her grandfather had retired from the White House in 1997, but returned in 2003.
Former President George W Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush said Jerman was “a lovely man”.
“He was the first person we saw in the morning when we left the residence and the last person we saw each night when we returned,” they said in a statement to NBC news.
Jerman left the White House in 2012 as a maitre d’ under former President Barack Obama, according to Gay.
“He was a quiet but stern man. Very giving, never fussed or complained. Always said he lived a blessed life,” Gay told CNN, adding that when Jerman left the White House in 2012, the Obamas presented him with a plaque and a coin to represent each president he served.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama included a photo of Jerman standing in the elevator with the president and first lady in her memoir, Becoming.
“Considering that we aren’t able to grieve normally – physically together, [the photo’s inclusion] is one way we are able to feel connected to his success and to feel connected to so much that he promoted around authenticity and building relationships, which equals building trust,” Garrett told FOX 5.