Gerard Anthony “Gerry” Valerio, a graphic artist and publications designer who received accolades for his many years of work, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday at his Annapolis home. He was 81.
Born in Detroit, he was the son of Herman Anthony Valerio, who served in the military and was a factory manager, and his wife, Virginia, a homemaker.
“He had an appreciation for the arts as a young person. He played the saxophone in school and demonstrated a talent in visual arts,” said his daughter, Kris Valerio Shock. “As his talent developed in high school, his father decided to move him from the Catholic high school and send him to Cass Technical High School in Detroit to major in fine arts.”
After high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was a staff artist for Leatherneck Magazine in the early 1960s.
Following his military service, Mr. Valerio moved to Annapolis and became a senior book designer for the Naval Institute Press. He had a small apartment on Hanover Street near the Naval Academy wall. He later resided in Epping Forest and on Chase Street.
Soon after settling in Annapolis, he met his future wife, Sharie Lacey, who was active in the Colonial Players.
“He would go on to donate hours of pro bono design to the Players for more than 55 years. He did programs, set design and design of their 50th anniversary book,” his daughter said.
Mr. Valerio left the Naval Institute briefly to work with Johns Hopkins University Press and later returned to the Naval Institute.
He went on to establish EditaGraphics on Main Street in Annapolis with colleague Bob Armbruster. He later had Bookmark Studio in Annapolis and Washington.
He designed books and publications for clients that included Johns Hopkins University Press, Wilderness Magazine and the Smithsonian Institution.
“Gerry had a sterling professional life as an artist and he gave his talents back to the Annapolis community through his creativity,” said Rick Wade, a friend. “He designed posters for the local theater and a new logo for the SPCA. He was also a good actor and set foot on stage in some impressive roles. I remember him in ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night.’”
Mr. Valerio became close friends and a working colleague with George Shenk of the Whitmore Press. They produced coffee table books and prints of art and history.
“My father’s designs captured the beauty and history of Annapolis,” his daughter said. “He believed in preserving in his books what is unique about Annapolis.”
Photography books, including Marion Warren’s “Bringing Back the Bay” and “The Train’s Done Been and Gone,” and Ginger Doyel’s ”Gone to Market” and “Over the Bridge,” featured his designs. He also designed Kevin Fleming’s “Annapolis.”
In 1985, Mr. Valerio was recruited to the National Geographic Society and played a role designing its 100th anniversary index. He worked in downtown Washington for several years.
He won the American Institute of Graphic Arts “50 Books” annual competition as well as excellence awards from the Chicago Book Clinic, Washington Art Directors Club, Baltimore Art Directors Club and Chesapeake College Art Show.
“The lioness with her cub on the cover was a story I did for the May 1986 issue on the Serengeti in Africa by a fantastic Japanese photographer Mitsuaki Iwago,” he wrote in a family biography. “I hadn’t been on staff more than a few months. And this just after I did the story on the discovery of the Titanic in the North Atlantic on a crash schedule.”
In 1991, Mr. Valerio transitioned to digital design. He also lost his son Darin Lacey Valerio in a car accident.
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“His personal grief and professional upheaval prompted a shift in priorities from book design,” said his daughter, Kris. “He then focused on his first love of fine art — oil painting and portraits. He later drew in charcoal.”
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His paintings and drawings were shown in Annapolis, Baltimore, Easton and New York City.
He participated in the Maryland Hall Portrait and Life Co-ops and the Maryland Portrait Society.
Mr. Valerio taught his book design at the George Washington University, Anne Arundel Community College and the Johns Hopkins University.
He also created logos for the SPCA of Anne Arundel County and the Anne Arundel Arts Alliance.
“My father’s love for his family — or as he would call it ‘la famiglia!’ — and the arts were boundless,” his daughter said. “He lived his life in a big way, it was like an opera. He was proud to be a passionate, emotional artist.”
Mr. Valerio is survived by a son, Tony Valerio of Arnold; a daughter, Kris Valerio Shock of Annapolis; two sisters, Susan Valerio and Mary Valerio Koveleskia, both of Lake George, Michigan; a grandson; and three stepgranddaughters. His son Darin Lacey Valerio died in 1991. He was formerly married to Sharie Lacey. Despite their divorce, they remained close.
A memorial service will be held April 24 at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The time has not been set.