“I’m going to Jerry’s,” my dad said as he left the house that Saturday in 2014. Going to Jerry’s had been his custom for many years. However, this Jan. 18 would be his final visit to his favorite spot and the last time he would drive his little red Ford truck. The next morning he became very ill, was hospitalized, and died the next month.
Jerry Hutchison was one of my dad’s best friends. They shared many of the same interests and both loved to talk—even about topics on which they did not agree. My dad was a staunch Democrat, had voted twice for Obama and was looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton. Jerry, on the other hand, was a strong Trump supporter. Jerry was a professing Christian and regular church attender; my dad was not.
At the beginning of their friendship, they had different musical tastes, but over the years my father helped convince Jerry of the merits of Bluegrass music. I remember the day he came home and proudly announced that Jerry had purchased a five-string banjo! It wasn’t very long before “ole Jer” was beginning to master this rather difficult instrument, and soon Jerry’s Gun Store became a venue for bluegrass picking and singing as well as the best place to hear the latest gossip. (My father, however, insisted that only women engage in this petty activity and what happened at the gun store was information exchange.)
Both my father and Jerry had natural musical ability. Dad was still playing his mandolin when he was 92, and Jerry played the bass with his bluegrass group at his 90th birthday party. The two men had similar personalities in that both were out-going and had a quick wit.
Their camaraderie of interests led to some trips together: a fishing trip to Canada, a jaunt to the country music capital, Nashville, and even to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This was my dad’s first and only plane trip. When he came home, he shared his amazement that Jerry had actually met someone he knew at the game.
Truly, Jerry never met a stranger; and if he did, that stranger soon became his friend.
Jerry was a good businessman, knew how to make money and gave my dad advice about financial investments. Certainly we were never rich, but I feel my parents did profit from Jerry’s counsel; and today, thanks to my years at Hocking College and my parents’ estate, I’m able to live modestly but comfortably.
My father often teased Jerry about his desire to make a good deal and his ability to get something for nothing. When Bob Evans had their grand opening with gift cards promised to those first in line, my father shared this poem at the gun store:
I know you’ve all seen
The big money sign
At the new Bob Evans
For the first in line.
They lined up their cots
The previous day
To await the grand opening
And collect the big pay.
In the wee hours after midnight
Up six sixty-four
I strained my eyes to see
That first cot at the door.
There on that cot
Not making a peep
Were Jerry and Margie
Jerry’s Gun Store became a venue for my father’s poetry readings as well as showcasing his mandolin playing
Jerry not only knew how to laugh and entertain; he was genuinely a compassionate man. When my father passed away, Jerry came to his friend’s funeral. I’ll never forget the look of tenderness in his eyes when he came through the receiving line and held my hand for a brief moment.
Last week I attended Jerry’s funeral.
This was one of the most moving experiences of my life. So many eulogies! Tears and laughter flowed simultaneously as we celebrated the life of one of Logan’s most colorful characters. His numerous abilities were noted: juggler, musician, woodcarver, antique dealer—to name a few. His humanitarian efforts were lauded.
The tributes of his daughters and grandchildren were beautiful, but what impressed me most were the words of his two sons-in-law. It was so obvious that these men regarded Jerry not as their father-in-law, but their father. One even stated, as he choked back tears, that Jerry was the father he never had. Having one’s children and grandchildren love us is a testimony of our kind nature, but having our in-laws praising us must be the highest tribute.
The funeral lasted a long time—an hour and one half! As I hugged Margie, she apologized for the service lasting so long. “Well, it had to last a long time,” I said. “After all, Jerry was in charge.” We both laughed.
Jerry’s band played two closing numbers, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and we all joined in the singing.
Before he was taken to his resting place, the funeral procession took a final trip past his Lake Logan home and the gathering spot for his customers and friends, the beloved gun store. The Hutchison cemetery plot in Fairview Cemetery is near ours.
How fitting! My dad and “ole Jer” are still close to each other.
Jerry’s Gun Store was, in many ways, a type of the old country store of years gone by. My dad expressed this thought so well in a poem that appeared in the newspaper in 2007.
Newspapers weren’t needed
In the by-gone days.
You could get all the news
In a much different way.
Wanting news of your neighbors
Or news of the war--
You could hear all about it
At the old country store.
Who’s having a baby,
Who’s got the best hound
A cure for diarrhea
Or who’s messing around.
One place never changes.
It’s the same as before.
World problems solved daily
At Jerry’s Gun Store.
Karen Kornmiller writes a bi-weekly column published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.