Jerry L. Williams

24 July, 194212 April, 2024
Obituary of Jerry L. Williams
Jerry Lee Williams (yes, he had a middle name, more on that below) died on April 12, 2024 at the age of 81, following several years of strokes (serious and mild per the neurologist) that increasingly limited his mobility and were the source of mounting frustrations, making some things he once did impossible and everything else difficult. He rode a bike for health, participated in over 20 Hilly Hundred trips where grandchildren were introduced to longer bike rides, rode his bicycle from Cairo to Jerusalem in 2000, rode his bicycle from Nogales, Arizona to Glacier National Park in 2004, climbed to the summits of Mt. Sinai in 2000 and Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008, and after a serious stroke in 2018, traded his two wheel bike for a recumbent trike in 2019, then had to stop riding it in 2022 after more stroke bad news. {Edited by his family to add: Jerry did have one last bicycle ride in his neighborhood on the warm, sunny afternoon of April 9, 2024.} Driving a car ended in 2022, bummer. Jerry arrived in Methodist Hospital on July 24, 1942, during the darkest days of WWII. He was given the middle name “Lee,” which he never liked or used. As a small child, the sing-song sound when pronounced by adults offended him. As he grew older and studied history, he wanted no association with Robert E. or that group of traitors who, under the slogan “states rights” wanted to continue and then expand slavery into the states that would be created from the territory gained by the Louisiana Purchase and the later War with Mexico. Jerry felt that during those dark days following his birth, parents all over the US must have wondered if their children would grow up being forced to learn German or Japanese and work as slave labor in some near or distant factory or camp. WWII ended with total victory for the Allies, thanks in large part to the adults who have been referred to as the Greatest Generation. Jerry and others his age encountered those adults at home, within the family, at school, in the neighborhood, and each provided daily examples of good citizenship that Jerry tried to follow. Jerry was the second son of Woodrow Wilson Williams and Anna Louise Nelson Williams. His older brother James R. Williams (b. Jan. 4, 1941, d. Oct. 20, 2020) graduated from Howe High School in 1959 and the Merchant Marines Academy in 1963, spending two years as an officer traveling the world on commercial and cruise ships before returning to Indianapolis. Jim and his family moved to Delmar, New York in 1971 where he became Chief of Police at the State University of New York, Albany campus. Jerry’s parents divorced when he was 8 years old and he, his mother, and his brother spent 2 years as “homeless,” sharing a home because of the kindness of an older sister of Louise. In 1956, Louise married Glen Martinie and in 1960, a sister joined the family, Mary Martinie, a physician living in Minneapolis. Jerry’s mother was a determined woman whose diligence was impressed on her sons. Jerry was diligent in his school work and industrious outside of school, saving his paper route money to buy one share of stock in the Indianapolis Indians in 1955, which kept the team in Indianapolis. Jerry was a proud graduate of Howe High School (1960), Butler University (BA 1964) and IU School of Law, Indianapolis (JD 1968). At Howe High School, Jerry lettered in football and wrestling (proving that mediocre athletes can get recognized). At the freshman mixer at Butler University, he met the lovely and multi-talented Sandy Gajdos, whom he considered to be the Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress made famous by a song from The Hollies. They later married and had 5 children. Upon graduating from Butler and finding a poor job market, Jerry took a boring job at an insurance company and entered law school, from which he graduated with honors. During law school, Jerry developed several impactful, life-long friendships grounded in the belief that government and public policy were vehicles to provide a better life for everyone, equality of opportunity, and attention to the needs of the less fortunate while staying out of the way of those who are capable of caring for themselves. His efforts on behalf of others included serving as Counsel to the Speaker of the Indiana House, House Parliamentarian, and Counsel to the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana Senate. He also served as an informal advisor and supporter to numerous legislative office holders and those who sought legislative office. He was recognized as a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Evan Bayh. Jerry’s commitment to helping his community included serving as Scout Master of Boy Scout Troop 441, Board Chair of the Jordan YMCA, Board Chair of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, member of the Board of Visitors of Marian University, and board member of the Indiana Secondary Market for Education Loans. One of Jerry’s last charitable/legal projects was helping Gleaners Food Bank raise the money and purchase the building on Waldemere Avenue where it is now located. After law school, Jerry practiced law for over 50 years, attempting to retire from Taft, Stettenius & Hollister at the end of 2009, but client calls and demands kept him busy until the end of 2015, when he finally closed his office but continued a very limited law practice. Previously, Jerry spent several years practicing law with his good friend and excellent lawyer John E. Taylor, a 1980 magna cum laude graduate of the same law school as Jerry. John left us much too soon in 2017. A surprising fact to most attorneys who have been in a group practice: in all of their years together, Jerry and John never once had an argument, not even a mild disagreement, about money. The reason for that rarest of events: good friends who always had a healthy respect for what each contributed to the law practice. In 1992, Jerry left John Taylor and their successful law practice to join his friend from Howe High School and Butler University, Mike Hockett, in the formation and IPO of ADESA Corporation. It started with four wholesale auto auctions, added another 20 in a few short years until it was acquired by ALLETTE in 1996. Jerry served as Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Director of ADESA until he left in 1996. While with ADESA, Jerry led the acquisition of Jim Hallett’s auto auctions in Canada. They became friends and in 2010, as Jerry was attempting to retire, Jim convinced Jerry, a guy who could not skate if you sat him on a chair and pushed it, that he should help Jim bring professional hockey to Indianapolis. It happened in 2014. Today, the Indy Fuel of the ECHL are affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks and a great value for family entertainment. During his interim between the sale of ADESA and returning to practice law in 2001, Jerry was asked by his friends John Taylor and David Becker to help with David’s latest idea: joining the board of First Internet Bank of Indiana and helping to build that non-traditional bank. He served on that board for over 20 years, retiring in 2022 as the strokes mounted and his mobility decreased. It was an exciting two decades building something new. Jerry is survived by Sandy, his still-lovely wife of 63 years, and their children, Tracy, Kurt, Brian (Susan), Mark (Maura), and Jenny Myers, who reside in the greater Indianapolis area and enjoy good mental health despite being forced in their formative years and during family vacation travels around the United States to stop at Revolutionary War, Civil War, and other historically important sites and endure lessons in history and human nature. His children will remember him for the example he set as husband, father, and grandfather. When grandchildren arrived in the family and Jerry really retired, he announced that he was going to be the grandparent in charge of fun and irresponsible behavior. He proclaimed himself “pretty good” at that job. Jerry will be remembered fondly by his grandchildren (Jessica, Kent, Max, Jack, Owen, Grant, Emmett, Ava, Kate, Julia, Raleigh, Josie, Declan, Nick, and Sinead) and one great grandchild (Emmeline) for summers on the trampoline and at Lake Michigan, many adventures to theme parks in Florida and California, plus several major league baseball parks along with visits to much of the continental United States as well as trips to Alaska and Hawaii. Jerry was also known as a photographic artist of international renown. (OK, truth be told he was no “artist,” just a guy with a camera that he used often, but it was the photographic artist designation that allowed him to enter Cuba at a time when it was off limits to Americans.) Some family members claim that Jerry had no ability to count accurately at any family card games; he was also known for vigorous cheering at games, concerts, plays, and any activity enjoyed by a child or grandchild. He was a willing travel companion, an eager listener, and a willing storyteller of life’s lessons. He was also known to run contests open to all his grandchildren where each entrant won a prize, proving that Indianapolis is identical to Lake Wobegon where all of Jerry’s grandchildren are above average. When asked how he was doing, a common answer was “Better than I deserve.” As an American who had visited and seen up close poverty in America, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, Jerry knew well the meaning of that expression. He often said he was both blessed and lucky, and he was. He led a wonderful, joyous life and has now embarked on the great travel trip that all of us will take someday, where we humans are allowed to escape the laws of physics that govern life on the planet earth. Visitation will be held on Thursday, April 18 from 4-8pm at Leppert Mortuary in Nora, 740 E 86th Street. A funeral mass will be held on Friday, April 19 at 11am at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 7200 Sarto Drive. A luncheon and celebration of Jerry’s life well-lived will immediately follow where friends and family may share stories and happy memories. In lieu of flowers, Jerry asked that contributions be made to Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis or to your favorite charity that focuses on feeding the hungry, providing shelter or furnishing clothing to those in need. Thank you. Proudly authored by Jerry Williams

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Thursday, 18 April, 2024


Friday, 19 April, 2024

Mass of Christian Burial