Jerry Haley, 78 of Akron, left us unexpectedly, peacefully and of natural causes on January 8th, 2021 after spending a healthy and happy Holiday season surrounded by family and friends.
Jerry was born in Akron on March 16th, 1942 to Laura and Elbert Haley. After graduating from Hoban High School in 1960, he furthered his studies at the University of Akron - Graduating in 1964.
Growing up in a tight knit Italian family with his sister, Jerry had many incredible stories that he enjoyed sharing with his kids and grandkids. He enjoyed telling his stories - over, and over and over. Sometimes he would be reminded that he might have told the story before. In time, we all learned that those stories were important to him, and therefore became important to us. Through all the many stories, it was clear that he had a childhood where he was loved and close bonds with his family were cemented - most of which he remained close to throughout his entire life.
After college graduation at 22 years old - he hit the road in his dad’s borrowed car for the Motor City. He made Detroit his home as he started his career as a foreman for the Ford Motor Company. Starting his career in the world’s largest manufacturing facility, he learned skills that shaped the rest of his career. Many times, we heard his mantra (of which he was very proud) - “there is the right way, the wrong way, and the Haley way”. On a weekend trip home to Akron, he met a blonde who caught his eye enough to make it worthwhile to come back to Akron every weekend.
The late 60’s was a time of great change in America and for Jerry as well. That blonde turned out to be Barbara Allen who he married in 1967. In 1968 they moved to Illinois and thoughts went to starting a family. 1969 brought Jerry some of his highest and lowest moments with the birth of his first son Jason in August, followed by the untimely death of his father at the age of 53 just six weeks later. Jerry’s love for his father was evident by the stories he told of his relationship with his dad some fifty years later, and always told with a sparkle in his eye.
The theme of the 1970’s was “on the move”. Jerry always put his family first, with several moves needed to ultimately return home to the Akron area to be close to the family. A move to Illinois, followed by Indiana, Brunswick Ohio, and finally Akron in 1974 completed his goal of getting back to Akron.
While learning to be a young father - Jerry furthered his interest in Martial Arts gaining his Black Belt in Karate. Years later, he proudly showed off his black belt and donned his old uniform (it still fit!) to show the grandkids his moves. The kids were in awe, and the adults laughed- we still do. Later in the 70’s, in 1979 after years of he and Barb trying to have a second child - Ryan was born. Now the family was complete.
The 80’s and 90’s were the years of professional growth for Jerry where he spent most of both decades at the Genie Garage door opener organization in Alliance. Jerry made the hour plus drive each way, every day so that his family could stay intact, and the kids could stay in school. Jerry was always a hardworking and dedicated leader rising through the ranks and finishing his career at Genie as the Vice President of Manufacturing. He was sad to leave in the late 90s when the company sold and changed the executive team but was blessed for the first time to be in a position to take up flying, something he had wanted to do his entire life. Jerry got his pilot's license and bought an airplane - he loved that hobby and enjoyed flying until just a few years ago when the upkeep on the plane became too much and he hung up his wings and sold his plane. In typical Jerry fashion, he regretted selling the plane, but it was for the best. Jerry also was able to buy a Corvette at this time and loved the thrill of that car, but again sold it years later after many years of enjoyment.
During this time, Jerry saw both Jason and Ryan graduate high school and move on to college, something that made him very proud. During that time Jerry decided to move closer to work, and called Canton, Ohio home for 8 years before returning to Akron in 1995 where he spent the rest of his life.
As the new century rounded the bend, Jerry again was faced with more change, more incredible experiences, and more heartbreak. 2000 started with the discovery that his wife Barb had terminal cancer. Jerry never accepted giving up - ever… in fact, he devoted all of his energy to comforting, helping, and loving Barb until her final breath some six months later. This devotion is something that was a constant theme Jerry’s whole life. The years after Barb’s death brought more change, but all things that brought a kinder and gentler side out in Jerry and gave his family an opportunity to tease him about becoming an old softy.
The next few years Jerry was surrounded by events, people and experiences that made him smile and those around him smile more. He was overjoyed to become a grandparent when Nathan was born in 2002 and the joy continued with Logan, Katie, Olivia, and Cody…. and then came love for a second time. While some people go a whole lifetime never finding that one true love, Jerry was blessed to find it twice in one lifetime. Some time after Barb’s passing, another pretty blonde named Mary caught his eye. As the old saying goes, “There’s something about Mary” and there certainly was. A few years later Mary moved in with Jerry and the rest is history. He soon retired after that and he and Mary spent the last 15 years loving, laughing, traveling, and loyally supporting one another like many people can only dream about.
Jerry did not turn his retirement years into puttering around with hobbies. Instead, he devoted most of his time to helping he and Mary’s sons Marc and Eric, as well as their wives on the many projects, household fixes, moving, remodeling, going to visit them and his biggest passion - visiting with his grandchildren. Jerry also devoted much of the last 10 years caring for his mother Laura who passed late in 2016 at the age of 100. He always joked that his mom would outlive him. During the last 5 years of his mother’s life, her memory faded, and she soon forgot who he was, or that he was there, yet he made it a point to visit her several times a week right up until the end.
Having played high school football, participating in diving during college, Karate after college, and then becoming an avid runner in his 30’s all the way up until his 60’s - physical fitness was always important to Jerry. This probably is why Jerry stayed so youthful in appearance, mind and spirit. Oftentimes Jerry was thought to be much younger than his physical age. Of course, in his 70’s, like many, Jerry found himself facing some health challenges, including a hip replacement, a pacemaker, and most recently major spine surgery. Each and every time, Jerry fought back and came out of his procedures strong and vibrant, including his spinal surgery last summer. Jerry even contracted Covid in October, but other than a fever for a day and a slight cough, he came right back to his usual self - likely due to his strong physical stamina.
Jerry’s death came as a shock to many on January 8th. He felt better than he had in years, had just bought a new car to get back to traveling with Mary in 2021 and had a zest for life that was contagious. He reveled in how well he was recovering from his spinal surgery and shared a little dance to prove it. Prior to his death, his days were filled with his and Mary’s children and grandchildren.
On that fateful morning last week, he and Mary enjoyed breakfast, as well as some light exercise as they often did, then Jerry said with a smile “I am going to get my shower, see you in a few” and he never returned. Jerry many times said he did not want to pass as the result of a long illness, even joking to his sons to yank the plug if it ever got to that stage. We all are thankful that God honored his wishes and took him quickly, with no suffering. There is great relief in knowing Jerry passed on to a better place and was filled with joy up until his last moment on earth. Those that knew him, will never forget him - rest in peace Jerry - we will see you around the next bend!
Calling hours will be from 5-7 pm on Thursday at Ciriello & Carr Funeral Home in Fairlawn. Funeral services will follow on Friday at 12 pm. Interment at Rose Hill Burial Park.
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