Jerry Newman

December 29, 1933 - May 29, 2016
Portage, MI



Sunday, July 17, 2016
2:00 PM EDT
Gilmore Car Museum
6865 West Hickory Road
Hickory Corners, MI 49060
Web Site


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Heritage Community of Kalamazoo Foundation for Amber Gardens
2400 Portage Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Life Story / Obituary


All who knew Jerry Newman would agree that he was truly one of a kind. He was honest and funny, generous and caring with unending devotion to the family he treasured.

The 1920s were prosperous days in America, but the 1930s were a much different story as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were hard to come by and the unemployment rate soared, which meant that there were few American families who didn’t feel the strain. Despite the trials around them, James and Margaret (Koepke) Newman were pleased to focus on an exciting time in their lives as they were blessed with the birth of the baby boy they named Jerry Mark on December 29, 1933, in Medaryville, Indiana. They certainly felt the trials of the time firsthand as Jerry’s father had to use kerosene, instead of gasoline as fuel for their car to get to Aunt Anna Grace's farmhouse at the time of Jerry’s birth! His father worked as an inspector at American Bridge in Gary, Indiana while his mother ran the household. It was while growing up that Jerry learned the value of family as being together with family was important as he was close not only to his parents and brother but also to his aunts and uncles, especially his Aunt Dorothea.

In many ways, Jerry was a typical young boy. He moved several times while growing up, but his fondest memories were made on the farm. It was a bit primitive, although it did have running water as Jerry always said that their running water consisted of running to the well, getting the water, and running back to the house! While growing up on the farm, Jerry had a pet pig he affectionately named Lady Plushbottom.

Both he and his brother, Jan, were avid ice skaters who loved racing each other across Deep River. Life was always an adventure with them around as there was the time they were racing on skates and Jerry’s head connected with Jan’s eye, giving him a broken eye socket. It was also common for their mother to have to break them apart using a broom while they were wrestling in the front yard. Jerry attended local schools including Hobart High School in Hobart, Indiana, graduating in 1953.

As a young man Jerry was eager for all that life had in store. On a visit to Lincoln, NE, Jerry was introduced to Mary Jane Debus, the woman of his dreams. During their early days of courting, Jerry left Gary, Indiana, after work every Friday to drive to Lincoln to see his sweetheart and returned to Gary late Sunday evening, in time to go to work the following morning. Jerry and Mary Jane were married on December 17, 1955, shortly before he left for basic training at Fort Carson, CO. Jerry served in the Army from 1955 through 1957 and during that time he and Mary lived in Ulm, Germany. While in Ulm, they survived on canned tuna so they could save their money in order to travel through Europe. Jerry once told the story of a two-week vacation that only ended when he and Mary pooled their money and realized their combined funds were $.17 and they decided it was probably time to go home.

After the Army, they welcomed three children including Jeffrey Mark, David Allen, and Renée Michelle. Jerry was a devoted father and husband who worked hard to provide for his family. Saturday mornings found him out cooking pancakes on the picnic table so his wife could have the morning off.

He loved cars of all kinds with his 1929 Studebaker being his greatest source of pride and joy. This car was often seen in the local Fourth of July parades; however, it was most often found parked at the local Dairy Queen; as Jerry was known for his love for hot fudge sundaes and all things sweet.

His retirement years brought more time for Jerry and Mary to travel. They traveled across the country visiting friends and family, took a cruise to Alaska and spent many weeks in Michigan, visiting their children.

Retirement also allowed Jerry to spend more time on his lawn, which was the envy of the neighborhood. Moles and dandelions did not stand a chance when Jerry was armed with a pipe full of tobacco and a free afternoon.

When Jerry became a grandfather, he spent hours teaching his grandson, Jared, how to tie his shoes, making the perfect bow and knot. On weekends Jerry could be found playing whiffle ball in the backyard with his grandson, Sam and taking both Sam and Jared to the Dairy Queen in the Studebaker.

Kindhearted, loving, and generous beyond measure, Jerry Newman was a blessing to everyone he met throughout his life. He was quick to smile and his fun-loving side made him a joy to be around.