A Life Lived: Jerry Heaton was a collector of friends

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

If you knew Jerry Keith Heaton, he was your friend.

“Man could not have had a better friend,” wrote Donald L. Johnson, Elk Park, N.C. in his memorial tribute to Heaton.

“Jerry had so many friends. He was a kind, gentle person, who tried to be a friend to everyone,” said his wife, Donna.

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Jerry Keith Heaton died Sept. 29. He had lived most of his life in Roan Mountain and Hampton. Jerry was a 1973 graduate of Cloudland High School and was retired from Eastman Corp. in Kingsport. After his retirement, he battled leukemia, making several trips to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, where he underwent a stem cell transplant.

“The cancer was hard on him, but he rarely complained. Even when he was sick, he had a big smile on his face,” said Donna.

Jerry and Donna had been married 31 years this past August. The couple enjoyed camping, with their favorite camping spots being in Pigeon Forge and Greenville, S.C.

Jerry was an outdoorsman, who enjoyed fishing with friends. His favorite places to fish were Watauga River and in Boone, N.C.

Jerry’s favorite TV show was “The Pickers.” He, too, was a picker as one of his favorite things to do was to visit flea markets, yard sales, and antique stores. “He was more of a looker than a buyer. If it was something really old and caught his eye, he might buy it,” said Donna.

He might have collected relics, but his biggest collection consisted of friends, many of whom were lifelong. “He had camping friends, fishing buddies, bluegrass friends, friends from work. He was rich in friends,” Donna shared.

One of Jerry’s best known trademarks was his smile. “No matter what, he was smiling,” wrote Jeff Scott, a co-worker at Eastman on his funeral tribute page. Linda Markland Richards of Telford, who grew up with Jerry, wrote: “I remember him always being a happy person.” Teresa Pearson, another co-worker at Eastman, wrote, “I’m going to remember Jerry by his laughter, his funny jokes and how he just loved life.”

Jerry Heaton never made a big mark in life by this world’s standards, but he made a lasting impression on the people he came in contact with. He was a simple man, who enjoyed the little things in life, such as Japanese food and steak, spending a few days in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge with his wife, or fishing with a friend. It didn’t take much to make him happy – just a few friends to share a laugh with.

Friends like Jerry Heaton are not easily forgotten.