Jerry Melville Torrence, 80, passed away on the evening of Friday, June 19 at his home in New York City, after a long bout with mouth cancer. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Judith Douglas Torrence in 2002. Jerry was born on February 10, 1935 in St. Charles, Madison County, Iowa, the only child of James and Laura Dawn Torrence. The family moved to Des Moines when Jerry was five, and his parents remained in that one house the rest of their lives. Jerry's entire education was through Iowa schools, from elementary school in Des Moines, to his years at North High, to his graduation with a BA in Business from the University of Iowa in 1957, where he pledged the Iowa Beta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in the spring of 1954. And for all his success and travel in later life, that Iowa foundation remained the single most important facet of his life, a memory that he supported emotionally and financially throughout his years. Jerry moved to Chicago after graduation to work at Marshall Field & Company, but an offer from Regal Rugs in New York in 1960 brought him to the city that that became his life. He drove through the Lincoln Tunnel that May in a convertible with Iowa plates, and a wooden ironing board lodged between luggage in the back seat and passenger's front seat. He stayed at Regal Rugs until his retirement in June of 2003. Jerry was fiercely loyal to his principles, the company and his customers, an invaluable asset to Regal. His social life paralleled his business career; Jerry's unique personality guaranteed that he did not go unnoticed in either a Board Room or a barroom. He became a fixture in some of the most popular retail stores, bars and restaurants in the booming Manhattan of the '60s through the '90s. Our collective recall of Jerry's antics at both work and play would fill a decent size coffee table book. The lasting legacy of the Torrence family, however, was their connection to St. Charles, and, in particular, the St. Charles Methodist Church. Jerry's parents, grandparents and Judith have been laid to rest at this beautiful ground, and Jerry contributed generously to the upkeep of the property for years. Jerry will be buried at St. Charles Cemetery next to his wife Judith on Saturday, August 29th, 2015. In lieu of flowers, a contribution may be sent to St. Charles Methodist Church, St. Charles, IA 50240 and/or Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund, PO Box 33099, Bloomfield Hill, MI 48303-0003.
Published in New York Times on Aug. 9, 2015.