A notable Cambria voice has been silenced: Jerry Praver, 78, an internationally acclaimed town crier, died April 30 at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. He had been battling stomach cancer.
Praver and his wife of nearly 58 years, Bev Praver, have been San Luis Obispo County’s official town criers since 2000, a concept brought forward by then-supervisor Shirley Bianchi.
“Jerry was such a delightful person, so easy to work with,” Bianchi said April 30. “He and Bev were just a dream couple, and their combined senses of humor were extraordinary.”
That humor surfaced most often in the Pravers’ rhyming patter, the event-specific chants they heralded with a ringing bell and concluded with a flourishing sweep of the feathered hats they wore as part of their bright red period costumes. Their performances, which nearly always drew laughter, launched events and celebrated accomplishments, communities and people.
The couple competed internationally. In 2015, Jerry Praver earned second-place honors in a world-wide town-crier competition in New Zealand.
He was born in 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio. Praver and his future wife met when they were 13 and 11 years old, respectively. He graduated from the Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University), and the couple was married two weeks later, leaving immediately for the West Coast, landing in Pomona.
He worked first for Convair (now General Dynamics Corp.) designing power supplies for ship-to-air missiles, and then for a series of smaller firms before going to work for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked for 11 years. Praver’s most notable assignment there, according to his wife, was “processing the pictures coming back from the Mars landing, all in real time. He also worked on solar-energy projects.”
The couple began singing folk songs in 1982, and made it their full-time career in 1987, the same year they moved to Cambria.
“He loved Cambria,” Bev Praver said. “We’d lived here longer than anyplace else, and it was the first place where he’d been so involved in the community.”
The Pravers volunteered extensively with the Cambria Historical Society and at the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, mostly on compiling and sharing history, as Jerry Praver did with his website cambriahistory.org.
Praver is survived by wife and daughters, Debbie Praver Eble of Seal Beach and Linda Praver of Willoughby, Ohio.
There won’t be a service, and cremation has taken place. People who wish to honor Jerry Praver’s memory can do so with donations to the Cambria Historical Society, Friends of the Piedras Blancas Light Station, a nonprofit of their choice, or by sharing history, a story and laugh with friends.