CHAMPAIGN — Gerald “Jerry, The Brush Man” Hearnley, 82, passed away on Aug. 23, 2019, at his home in Champaign with his wife and son at his bedside.
Jerry was born May 23, 1937, in Danville, the son of Howard “Boots” Hearnley and Valera Pearl (Hinton) Hearnley. Jerry married Sally Jane Thomas on June 23, 1968, at the First Methodist Church in Clinton, Ind. She survives.
Along with his wife of 51 years, Jerry is also survived by his son, Thomas Gerald (Mary) Hearnley of Mahomet, and his daughter, Elizabeth (Luis) Paulo of Cerny France; grandson, Ethan Gerald Hearnley of Columbus, Ohio; two granddaughters, Jennifer (Rober) Toroslu and Alexandra Paulo; a great-grandson and a great-granddaughter, all of Cerny France. Jerry is also survived by three sisters, June Cunningham, Imogene Beckley and Joanne (Tony) Johnson, all of Danville along with many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, grandparents and brother, Stacy.
Jerry graduated from Danville High School in 1955. He was elected state president of the Future Distributors of America Club at the state convention in Springfield his senior year. During the summer months, Jerry worked with his dad in training harness horses throughout the state of Illinois. During the school year, Jerry worked at Sid Giles’ IGA Store. Sid Giles and Lawrence Newtson were very influential to Jerry while he was in school and later in life. He attended Illinois State Normal for two years prior to joining the U.S. Army. He spent 6-1/2 years in the finance and accounting division in Braconne, France.
After being discharged, Jerry returned to his hometown of Danville. He was a lifelong salesman and worked in sales for a variety of companies before starting his own business in 1974. Jerry always said he started the business in “a one-car garage with the car still in it”! And The Brush Man, Inc., was born.
Jerry never met a stranger — he could talk to anyone about anything. One story told by his wife was that one evening, he answered the phone, and she was puzzled about who he was talking with. About 45 minutes later, she asked who he had been talking with. Jerry answered, “I don’t know, it was a wrong number!” But that was Jerry — if he could talk with someone and make them laugh, he was happy. He was known for his wonderful sense of humor and his big smile. Jerry retired in Decemer 2009, but The Brush Man LLC is still going strong.
Jerry loved playing golf and was a former member of the Urbana Golf and Country Club, the Champaign Country Club and also the Lake of the Woods. He played in the Alice Cooper Celebrity AM tournaments in Phoenix in 2003 and 2004. And in 2005, he also played in the Frank Sinatra Countrywide Celebrity AM Tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. But mostly he enjoyed playing golf with his son, grandson and wife.
Jerry fought a long battle with Alzheimer's. The disease took away his “words,” and it was very upsetting to him to not be able to carry on a conversation with anyone. But his wife Sally would help “fill in the blanks” when he couldn’t think of the right words.
There will be no public service. Owens Funeral Home, Champaign, assisted the family with cremation arrangements. There will be a family memorial gathering later. Memorial donations can be sent to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Jerry will be missed greatly by his family, and he will be forever in our hearts.
Condolences may be offered at www.owensfuneralhomes.com.