Joseph Gerold "Jerry" Cain, Sr.
May 22, 1926 – May 23, 2020
Jerry Cain was the youngest of three children born to William S. Cain and Eula Smith. He was born in Mount Enon, a little community on the outskirts of Plant City, Florida. Back during those days, the children had to work at an early age, picking strawberries to help provide for the family needs. He would go to work at sunrise and then go to school at the late school starting time. Then return to the fields in the afternoon, frequently working until dark. At age 12, his family moved to Wimauma, Florida, to Ruskin, Florida, to work the fields there. He moved to Tampa when he was 14 years old and delivered groceries on his bicycle. He had to quit school before finishing but returned to night school in Tampa at Jefferson high to attain schooling he needed to face whatever work that laid ahead.
Jerry started his adult life as a union member on July 7, 1942, at the Tampa Shipbuilding Company, as a Marine Electrician's helper at 66 cents an hour. This was before the Right to Work (for less ) law was in effect, and the officials at the shipyard told him he would have to go down and join the union before they could put him to work. He said this was the best thing that ever happened to him and was proud that he worked his entire adult life as a union member. He became a member of Local Union 108 IBEW when he was only 16 years old. Later the local split and a new local, which represented the Construction Wireman's and Apprentices only, was formed as Local 2017, later changed to Local 915, as it is known today. While working at the shipyard, the U.S. Navy, who was in charge of the yard, sent him to Marine Electrical School in an old cigar factory two hours during the workday to become a Marine Electrician. Top pay then was $1.20 an hour. He was employed at the shipyard for about six years until the yard closed on V.J. Day.
Back in those days, Tampa was quite a town for the sport of boxing. Jerry was involved in boxing and fought under the name "Little Red" for a period of time. He also had the fastest quarter horse around the area at that time and was his own jockey, weighing only 113 pounds. He said, "you rode em bareback on the country track, or they called you a sissy."
After his employment at the shipyard ended, he took an exam at the union to work in the construction field and was classified as a second-year apprentice. He went to school again, at the union hall, two nights a week to become a Journeyman Wireman.
On August 31, 1946, he married Mary Ellen Forsyth, and they had three children, Marsha Cain Richardson, Susan Cain, and Joseph Gerald Cain, Jr. Another daughter, Brenda Jo Cain, died shortly after her birth. He has two grandsons, Jason Richardson and Bradley Cain.
During his life as a union member, he served in practically every position of responsibility within Local 915 IBEW, ranging from Negotiating Committees, Executive Committee, Executive Board, President, and as Business Manager for 14 years. He helped create the Local 915 Credit Union, now known as Powernet Credit Union, and was proud to hold a single-digit account number.
When Jerry became the Business Manager of Local 915 IBEW, the union hall was located in an old movie theater on Florida Avenue, and the member's wage scale was very low, with no benefits in their contact. When he departed as Business Manager in 1981, the membership had one of the finest union buildings in the nation, completely paid for, and the wage scale was over $17.00 an hour. Benefits included health insurance for the members and their families, a local pension plan, and a vacation fund.
Concurrently, along with serving as Business Manager, he was a member of the Executive Board of the Florida State Electrical Workers Association for several terms. He was a sitting member of the AFL/CIO Board and became President of the Central Labor Council. (West Coast Florida Federation of Labor) in 1976. He also served on the Board of Directors for the United Way of Hillsborough County
In his retirement, he lived in Dover, Florida, raised a few chickens, proving his neighbors with plenty of eggs, enjoyed fishing on his pontoon board, and doing electrical work for his church.
Jerry is survived by his children; Marsha Richardson (Frank), Susan Cain (Marco), and Joe Cain (Ceila); his grandchildren; Jason Richardson (Laura) and Bradley Cain (Stephanie) and 3 great-grandchildren; Lydia, Hannah, and Lily.
"Entrusted To Our Care"
MacDonald Funeral Home
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joseph Gerold "Jerry" Cain, Sr., please visit our floral store.