A Life Lived: Jerry Vanhoy was a ‘jack of all trades’
Some would say Jerry Vanhoy was a piddler — someone who spends time in trifling activites.
Others would say he was a putter — someone who acts or works without much purpose, in other words, another word for a piddler.
However, his wife, Susan, preferred to call Jerry a jack-of-all-trades as his piddling and puttering always had a purpose. “There was hardly anything he couldn’t fix or do. He’d keep working at what he was doing until he got it fixed or working the way he wanted it to,” she said.
Jerry died Feb. 28 after suffering from COVID-19 late last year. “He had been in the hospital six times since having COVID,” Susan shared.
Jerry was more than a piddler and putter. He retired from East Tennessee State University after serving 29 years as the Physical Plant Coordinator. The John Clack-Jerry Vanhoy Chiller Plant on the ETSU Campus was named for Jerry because of his dedicated service to the university.
Jerry was 81 years old when he died, thus he had earned the right to be a piddler, a putter, etc. Regardless, he was known by his peers as a hard worker and someone who gave his all to the chore at hand.
“He enjoyed tools and working with them. Whenever he’d buy tools, he would generally buy heavy industrial tools — tools that were too heavy or cumbersome for me to use or if they were electrical, I couldn’t start them. I begged him one year to buy me a small lawn mower I could use, so for Mother’s Day, he did,” Susan said with a chuckle.
Aside from his work, Jerry loved his family, the Lord and his church at First Free Will Baptist, Elizabethton. “He loved to read his Bible, and it was not unusual for him to get up at 3 and 4 a.m. and begin his day by reading the Word. He would then go to the Country Diner at Watauga and have breakfast with the ladies who worked there,” Susan said.
He often had breakfast with his church friend, Floyd Nave. Floyd, who had COVID-19, preceded Jerry in death. “He and Floyd were best buddies and often went places together. They visited a lot together,” Susan shared.
Jerry was one of these people who enjoyed 15 and 20-minute trips. A trip to Lowe’s or to Wal-Mart, maybe to get just one thing. Wallace Phipps was one of Jerry’s buddies, who often accompanied him on those short trips — run-in and run-out trips as Jerry’s wife referred to them.
When he wasn’t on a short trip, Jerry enjoyed watching westerns on TV, and up until the last year or two he grew a small garden in the spring and summer. Jerry also kept two or three nanny goats. “He really enjoyed his nanny goats. He would go out two or three times a day to check on them. He sold them right before he got sick this last time,” Susan said.
A humble man, Jerry always had a testimony about God’s goodness to him and his family. His favorite Bible verse was Psalms 140: 23-34, which was his prayer every day: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”
Jerry enjoyed music. He played the guitar and his daughter, Nicole, played the mandolin. “They enjoyed playing together and his favorite song to play and sing was ‘Thank You Lord for Your Blessings On Me,’” Susan shared.
In addition to Nicole, Jerry’s other children were Rhonda Hazelwood, Robin Bolton, Jodye Tipton and Thomas Ledford. He also had grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which he adored.
Jerry Vanhoy may have had a love for piddling and puttering and “running in and running out trips,” but one thing for sure he had a heart that he always kept “tuned in” to God.