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Jerry Stephens


1932 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Jerry Stephens Obituary
Jerry Stephens
PEORIA - Gerald "Jerry" D. Stephens, age 86, of Peoria, Illinois, passed away at his home on Monday, August 20, 2018.
Jerry was born on June 17, 1932, in Peoria, IL, to Homer and Balsora (Ground) Stephens. He married Helen Davis on August 7, 1965.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Helen (Davis) Stephens; his children, Angie (Charlie) Larson of Hudson, WI, Jeff (Janet) Stephens of Morton, IL, Jenni (Chet) Krupiarz of Traverse City, MI, and Jo Stephens of Phoenix, AZ; and grandchildren, Charles Larson, Ryan Larson, Andrew Stephens, Amanda Stephens, Brianna (Rolando) Hinzo, Bethany Krupiarz and Cameron Krupiarz.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Glenn Stephens; sister, Melba Kuntz; and son, Douglas R. Stephens.
Jerry graduated from Peoria High School in 1951 and University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1955. Jerry served in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in the infantry during the Korean War.
Jerry was the founder and retired chairman of the board of RLI Corp., a nationwide specialty property and casualty insurance company headquartered in Peoria, IL. From 1958-1969, he was vice-president of H.O. Stephens & Son Co., a family owned retail insurance agency. He founded Replacement Lens Inc. with Dr. Jerome Conlogue in 1961, and then founded RLI Corp. in 1965. In 1969, RLI common stock was first traded on NASDAQ. In 1975, RLI became Peoria's first Employee Stock Ownership company, fulfilling his desire to make every employee a shareholder. In 1987, RLI common stock was moved to the NYSE. Jerry attributed RLI's longtime success to the people of the organization and the philosophy of "the customer is king." In 1996, RLI's Vision Product Division merged with Hester Enterprises, the maker of Maui Jim sunglasses. Jerry was instrumental in bringing Maui Jim's administrative headquarters to Peoria. In the 1990s, Jerry wrote a "Message of the Week" to his employees, which focused on enhancing company success and helping employees live rich and fulfilled lives. These messages were published in a 475-page book given to each employee upon his retirement. Jerry retired from the RLI Board of Directors in May of 2011, after 39 years as president and 11 years as chairman of the board.
Jerry also dedicated his time and talent to many industry and community organizations. He was the past president of the National CPCU Society (Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters), chairman of the American Institute Board, served 10 years on the board of the American Institute for CPCU, chairman of the honors committee of the board of the International Insurance Society, served 28 years on the advisory board at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, 12 years as a trustee for Bradley University, the Harry J. Loman Foundation, the Brady Advisory Board at The Brady Urological Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business Advisory Committee, and chairman of the board of Maui Jim, Inc. Jerry also served on the boards of Jefferson Bank and Trust Company, Bank One Peoria, Country Club of Peoria, Creve Coeur Club, Fayette Companies and the Economic Development Council.
Jerry received many recognitions throughout his life, including Distinguished Graduate Awards from Peoria High School, the named Gerald D. Stephens CPCU Chair in Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, and the Gerald D. Stephens Chair at Bradley University, which was endowed by RLI.
He and his wife, Helen, established the Gerald D. & Helen M. Stephens Foundation, which has supported many organizations and causes. They created the Gerald and Helen Stephens Professorship in Wildlife endowment at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in memory of their son, Doug, who was a wildlife management student at the university. In 2008, their generosity led the OSF Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria to dedicate its NICU as The Gerald D. and Helen M. Stephens Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Most recently, they established the Gerald D. and Helen M. Stephens Directorship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Gerald D. and Helen M. Stephens Center for Stone Disease at the Brady Urological Institute, also at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Jerry enjoyed golf, attending University of Wisconsin football games, and spending time in Savannah, GA, and Naples, FL.
When once asked what legacy he wished to leave on this planet, Jerry responded: "I believe we are put on the earth to serve others. Our rewards in life are in direct proportion to the service we are able to provide. I would hope to be remembered as a servant of our family, our people at RLI, our customers and our community. Others may have done a better job than I, but I hope to be remembered as one who gave his all in the endeavor."
Visitation will be held on Friday, August 24, 2018, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Davison-Fulton Woolsey-Wilton Funeral Home, 2408 West Willow Knolls Drive, Peoria. A funeral service will also be at the funeral home on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 10 a.m., with the Rev. Jack Thompson officiating. Burial will follow at Parkview Cemetery in Peoria.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Illinois CancerCare Foundation, 8940 North Wood Sage Road, Peoria, IL 61615.

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Published in Peoria Journal Star from Aug. 22 to Aug. 24, 2018
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