In memoriam: Jerome Grier Wiggins Jr.

Jerome Grier Wiggins Jr. Photos: Courtesy of the Wiggins family

Jerome Grier Wiggins Jr., known to most of us as “J. Grier” or “Grier”, was born on March 28, 1982, at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley. Grier was the fourth member of a family of proud Berkeleyans: father Jerome Sr., mother Dorothy and big brother Maceo.

He was born into and raised in the south Berkeley community of families, where his family and friends instilled in him a desire to improve and better not only himself but also his community. To know J. Grier was to know that he always wanted the best for everyone and he found joy in improving the lives of those around him.

Over the years, Grier donated his time and energy to supporting educational and community projects such as the Living History Gold Rush, Yosemite and Shakespeare Programs, Break the Cycle and the annual Juneteeth Festival in his south Berkeley neighborhood. J. Grier was also a member of the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America, where he was a member of Berkeley’s Troop 6.

J. Grier’s central passion, which would define his entire life, was always his love for the game of baseball. J. Grier devoted nearly his entire life to learning, playing and teaching the game to others. He began his career, like most young athletes did, playing tee-ball where he would encourage his teammates to run the bases with him when he hit a home run.

At 14 years of age, J. Grier committed himself to playing high-level, competitive baseball when he joined the Duvernay Baseball Club of the Oakland Babe Ruth League. Continuing a now familiar pattern, J. Grier was selected to play on the league’s traveling All-Star Baseball Team. J. Grier would later join the Oaks Regional All-Star Travel Baseball Team, a competitive, traveling baseball team selected from among the best youth baseball players in Northern California. This team traveled, competed in and won tournaments throughout North America. It was during this time that coaches and players gave him the nickname “Bear,” one that would stick with him in competitive baseball circles for his entire life.

J. Grier was also part of a special delegation of players that President George W. Bush sent as official representatives of the United States to play baseball at the Cuban National Institute for Sports in 2000.

After graduating from Berkeley High School, J. Grier continued his education at UC Berkeley and Contra Costa Community College, while he continued to play baseball. It was during this time that J. Grier met his college sweetheart Siera and together they had a son, Jalin.

With a new family to care for, J. Grier placed his studies on hold and joined IBEW Local 595 as an apprentice electrician. J. Grier worked on major construction projects, gaining professional experience that would eventually lead him to a position at the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District where he worked on the traction power system for one of the largest public transit agencies in the country.

Once situated at BART, Grier turned his efforts and energy toward coaching high school baseball at his alma mater, Berkeley High School. During his tenure as coach, BHS won two league titles and competed in the North Coast Section Division 1 Baseball Semifinals. Although Grier enjoyed the success of coaching at BHS, he left to devote his time to coaching and instilling in his son the same love he had for the game of baseball. Grier would soon come full circle, coaching his son’s baseball team in the same league where J. Grier had begun his own baseball career over 20 years prior.

During this time, Grier would rekindle a friendship that led to love with his fiancé, Miss Tiffany Hill. Both he and Tiffany embarked on the journey to blend Tiffany’s daughter and Grier’s son into a new family unit.

Quick to smile and share a joke or give support when it was needed, J. Grier was a devoted father, co-parent, partner, son, brother, friend, coach and mentor who provided love, support and inspiration to his family and others who knew him. J. Grier died aged 36 on Oct. 16, 2018.

J. Grier is survived by his parents, Jerome and Dorothy Wiggins; brother Maceo and Cara Wiggins; son, Jalin Wiggins; fiancée, Tiffany Hill and her daughter Tori Hart; and numerous adopted and extended family members and friends.