GREENVILLE - Nine pounds, nine ounces of joy. How little she knew of what her early arrival meant to daddy.
The sixth day of April will forever swing the pendulum of glee and grief, of life and death, for the man known as the 'GameMaster of Ceremonies' throughout upstate South Carolina.
Jeremiah Dew, or JDew to his legion of fans, always keeps his Facebook profile amiable and upbeat. That's who he is.
But when he and his wife Sydney welcomed their first child, 12 days before her due date, his mind was boggled by her birthday far more than the typical first-time father.
The highest moment of Jeremiah Dew's life surfaced precisely two decades after his lowest. Johnnie Leigh Dew was born exactly 20 years after John Lee Dew, Jeremiah's father, shot and killed himself in his Missouri home.
Was it fitting? Was it fate? Or the answer to a young couple's prayers?
"Of course, the day didn't sneak up on me. That's a day you don't forget," Dew said. "But I became overwhelmed by the emotion."
So Jeremiah wrote.
"April 6, 1994 - My father, Johnny Lee Dew, committed suicide. My life was forever changed. It's hard to talk about, and hard to think about. I was 10 years old and, of course, this anniversary doesn't pass without me remembering how much that day scarred me.
Twenty years later. To. The. Day." - Jeremiah Dew's Facebook post, April 6, 2014
Drive to Clemson
For the past eight years, JDew, 30, has rocked the title Director of Fun at Fluor Field, home of the Boston Red Sox's Single-A affiliate Greenville Drive. He lives within walking distance of the ballpark in the town's West End district, filled with young professionals mixing natives among transients.
He's not just a goofball. Well, he is that, but he's not just that. By day, JDew worked full-time in the Drive's marketing department. When fans rolled in, he put on his oversized glasses and floppy hat, went downstairs and entertained family-style.
At one game, Clemson's then-assistant athletic director for promotions John Seketa noticed JDew's talent. JDew was asked to a lunch interview by Clemson marketing and game management czar Mike Money, who offered JDew on the spot to take his act to Littlejohn Coliseum for basketball games in the winter months.
"My job is to make sure everybody has a good time," JDew said. "Of course, the atmosphere for basketball is high-powered. Everybody's facing the center. Baseball's outside, it's more open, and there's not a lot of high action the whole time."
Money called it "a no-brainer" to bring JDew on board, lauding his willingness for more than just lifting fan morale on game night.
"He's probably one of the more diverse people I know, just from a talent standpoint," Money said. "What he does in front of the crowd at Littlejohn is just a slice of the pie of what he can do."
Apart from sports, Dew Productions is a one-man show starring JDew the artist, actor, impersonator and creator. He performed his 'One Voice: A Black History Narrative' at The Citadel on Feb. 27. He appeared twice previously at Charleston Southern.
Role models include Sinbad and Nick Cannon, though these days JDew sees himself more in the Ryan Seacrest mold.
"Hosting is really the niche. I'll probably be a frontman for a long time wherever I am," JDew said. "It's not like I'm a standup comedian. I'm an emcee.
"A lot of people pay 20-30 bucks to walk in the front door," he said, "and I get paid to walk in the back door."
Entertainment comes naturally to Jeremiah Dew. It always has, thanks to John Dew.
"April 6, 2014 - My daughter, Johnnie Leigh Dew, was born. My life is forever changed. It will always be great to talk about, and great to think about. I am 30 years old, and, of course, this anniversary will always pass with me thinking about new life." - Jeremiah Dew's Facebook post, April 6, 2014
Game show bond
A staff sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1982-94, John Dew was from California, like his wife, LaWanda Findley. Jeremiah was born in Germany, and has moved around the United States like many other sons of the army.
When Jeremiah was a boy, wanting to watch cartoons, he'd pry the remote from his dad's hand, who'd fallen asleep on the couch with college basketball on TV.
Father and son found common ground, when Jeremiah was a little older, in game shows.
"That was our thing," Jeremiah said. "When I was growing up, game shows, man. It was a lot of game shows."
Jeremiah enjoyed standbys like Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak and The Price is Right's Bob Barker, and was particularly enamored by Ray Combs, the host of Family Feud in the early 1990s.
"We would answer the question, buzz in on the couch, all that type of stuff," Jeremiah said. "That's probably where it all started."
The relationship ended far too soon, when on April 6, 1994, John committed suicide at age 34. Jeremiah was 10.
Three years later, Jeremiah moved with his mom to the upstate, where he's settled in since for 17 years. He's the oldest of six children. His mother remarried, to an Air Force chaplain.
Yet every year, Jeremiah felt an emptiness, on that sixth day of April.
"God has been very good to me and had this plan the whole time. I've never, ever, believed that God has a sense of humor as everyone seems to think. Today, as I'm typing this (and crying), I would like everyone to know: I have officially changed my mind." - Jeremiah Dew's Facebook post, April 6, 2014
It's still all foggy, two months later, as Jeremiah experiences his first Father's Day.
"When you see your baby for the first time," he said, "and you get to hold her, and I'm trying to help the nurses, help my wife move into a different room, and I'm like ... I really should get this post out. This is the day. And it's really important to me."
And to Sydney, who met Jeremiah through church and married him July 26 of last year. Johnnie Leigh - named after her grandfather - was born healthy at 6:53 p.m. at St. Francis Eastside Hospital on April 6, 2014.
She was due April 18. Twelve days early, right on time.
"We had prayed specifically that she'd be born that day," Sydney Dew said. "I was very thankful she could redeem that day for him, and for us."
Someday, little Johnnie will be old enough to understand what her birthday means to dad. He can start by showing her the Facebook post, which Jeremiah posted along with the first picture of him holding Johnnie around 9 p.m. that night.
The post has yielded more than 1,200 likes - and counting. JDew, who reached the maximum of 5,000 Facebook friends, still can't believe it.
"It was a beautiful thing to see how many people commented on it, and liked it, and shared it. That was nowhere what I thought," Jeremiah said.
"It was overwhelming to see how many people related to my story ... how many people have also gone through tragic experiences and saw a light at the end of the tunnel."
"This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; and saved Jeremiah from all his troubles." - Psalm 34:6" - Jeremiah Dew's Facebook post, April 6, 2014
Jeremiah Dew entertains fans at a Clemson University menís basketball game against Duke at Littlejohn Coliseum. (Rex Brown/Clemson sports information)×
Sydney Dew and Jeremiah Dew with their newborn daughter, Johnnie, who was born April 6, 2014 - on the 20-year anniversary of Jeremiahís father committing suicide. (Provided by the Dew family.)×
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