Jerry Hartley, a remarkable human being and a true renaissance man, passed away on July 20, 2021. Not only was he a local historian, a deep sea diver, an archeologist, a wonderful storyteller, and an amazing VISTA volunteer, he was totally committed to preserving the history of the region. Jerry’s work with local communities as a VISTA made it possible for Rural Action to gain a foothold in community development work. Born in Millfield and raised in Glouster, he had a deep understanding of the Appalachian mindset. His interactions as a community organizer benefited from his vast knowledge of the region and its culture. Jerry was no stranger to Shawnee, Glouster,
Congo, Corning, and Trimble, just to name a few of the places touched by him. He had the unique ability to fit into any situation whether discussing history with one of his OU professors or telling stories of coal miners with local folks, he was totally comfortable. This was a huge asset to his organizing.
Jerry was a U.S. Air Force Veteran and was a member of the Chauncey AMVETS. He retired from the Poston Power Plant, and he enjoyed horses and farming. He always had time for friends in need, and served as a mentor and friend to a number of young people in the region. Jerry had a great, ornery sense of humor, and if you spent any time at all with him you got to see that in action. He was pragmatic and hardworking, but found time to have fun and connect with people along the way.
Along with his community work, Jerry sat on the first VISTA InterCorps Council at Serve Ohio and served as a liaison with Ohio University for the AmeriCorps All Member Gatherings for three consecutive summers. He loved serving as a VISTA and he brought his love of the region and its people to everything he did. Jerry helped Rural Action learn and grow as an organization, and he was a friend to many of our service members, staff and board members over the years.
Jerry helped many of us learn more about the local communities in which we work, and he helped many of us be more grounded in the work. Every one of us who had the great privilege of spending time with Jerry came away having learned something.