Jerry Witham Hoegner, age 86, longtime resident of Clifton Park, Lakewood, Ohio, was united with his Savior when he passed away peacefully from complications related to Covid-19 on Friday, August 21, 2020, at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. A special thank you to the medical team there who so valiantly tried to help him.
He is survived by sons Chris Hoegner, Eric Hoegner, wife Kate, grandchildren Eric, Harlan and Aaron; daughter Ingrid Hoegner-Leek, husband Bill, grandchildren Oliver and Madeline; sister-in-law Lana Hoegner; niece Erika Krites, husband Dave, great-nephews Brad and Matt; nephew Ryan Hoegner, wife Annette, great-nephew Trent and great-nieces Aubry and Faith; and many dear cousins. He is also survived by his longtime friend, George Andrews. And his beloved dog, Freidl. He was preceded in death by his parents, Stanley and Goldie Hoegner, and brother Stan.
Jerry loved all. And was loved by all. His universe revolved around his three children and five wonderful grandchildren. He always said of all his greatest accomplishments, he was most proud of his children. Jerry always had time for them. He instilled into them to always try their absolute best no matter what, and that he was always there to support and guide them. There are innumerable remembrances such as his taking everyone to the annual Cleveland Orchestra Christmas Concert, picnics at Clifton Beach, the thrill of going to the latest musicals in town or just talking with him one on one. Jerry loved sharing stories about his childhood with all his family and how proud he was of his heritage. He felt very blessed to have grown up with loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who made an indelible impression on his outlook on life. His Clifton Park home was known as “The Halloween House” for the elaborate displays to thrill the trick-or-treaters. He had a constant twinkle in his eye. He loved to have fun.
A native of rural Ohio, Jerry was born July 23, 1934, in Wapakoneta, a small farming community south of Lima. He was acquainted with the family of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, also from there. He grew up surrounded by an extended, close-knit family anchored by their faith. He graduated Blume High School, Class of 1952. He loved the beauty and majesty of the outdoors with its wildlife, a cloud-filled sky, beautiful sunsets, and flora, which fueled his passion for the beautiful things in life including his garden surrounding his Lakewood residence which attracts deer, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies and an occasional raccoon. And the botanical and bird prints adorning the walls of his home.
Annual trips to Lima to see the circus and county fair with a favorite uncle was a favorite summer pastime. An undated list found in Jerry’s handwriting of 57 of his favorite things in life included trapeze performers, roller coasters and the distinctive aroma of carnival popcorn and fried chicken. He learned the value of showmanship and presenting the extraordinary and unexpected while walking down the magical carnival midways.
Jerry had an insatiable curiosity about how things worked “creatively.” He was fascinated by people who worked with their hands. He was equally curious about the musicians and scientists, who worked with their minds. This curiosity about creative people and processes led to his eclectic tastes later in life, and no doubt to his chosen professional path. He also admired determination and grit.
Jerry strongly believed in education and how it can change lives. He attended The Ohio State University where he graduated in 1956 degreed in Fine Arts with a major in Illustration and Design, and a minor in Art History. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Transportation Corps where he gained added respect for discipline and order.
A favorite story Jerry told about his college years was when he wasn’t working in the kitchen serving meals at a sorority house, he had a part-time sales job at a collegiate clothing store. He learned two things that served him well in short order: First, how to dress impeccably, and second, how to merchandise and close a sale. He boosted weekend traffic at the store by convincing friends to stop for a visit. Soon he became the store’s top salesperson. He went on to become a legend for his taste and style in all that he did. He always said a person’s shoes spoke volumes and was renowned for his sartorial style.
Jerry arrived in Cleveland on a Nickle Plate passenger train at the Terminal Tower in June 1956, and immediately landed a position at Halle Bros. Department Store as an Advertising Artist, where he made history by creating the famous ‘Key” for the store’s iconic Christmas character, “Mr. Jing-a-Ling.” Two years later, he moved up to become the Art Director at The May Company, supervising a staff of 40 artists and writers.
Jerry continued his meteoric rise as one of Cleveland’s top advertising professionals in 1960, when he was hired by Stouffer Foods Corporation as Advertising Director, overseeing the promotion, and merchandising of 44 restaurants and 14 inns. Five years later he was recruited as Vice President of Account Services at Wyse Advertising, with offices in Cleveland and New York. There he supervised accounts including Smucker’s, National City Bank, The Higbee Company, Sherwin-Williams retail stores, Manners Big Boy Restaurants, Stouffer Foods, and Goodyear Tire.
Jerry left Wyse to join The May Company as Vice President of Sales Promotion. Two years later he moved across the street to become Vice President of Sales Promotion at The Higbee Company and was subsequently promoted to Vice President of Communications. At that time, Higbee’s was northern Ohio’s largest, finest retailer. Jerry will be remembered for being the impetus behind showcasing Higbee’s flagship store on Public Square in the Hollywood film, A Christmas Story.
Jerry rounded out his remarkable career by joining The Plain Dealer in 1990 as Director of Marketing, until his retirement in 2006. During his tenure, he was instrumental in developing the acclaimed “Holiday Spirit” program through which local charities were annually awarded funding and publicity in the form of a front-page feature story in the newspaper.
Early on Jerry recognized the importance of community engagement and leveraged his employers’ advertising budgets to support a plethora of Cleveland institutions and causes. He championed the issues of hunger, literacy, and the Aids epidemic to name just a few. He also remained a stalwart supporter of the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Lakewood’s Beck Center.
He was engaged with national industry organizations and served on the boards of the Newspaper Association of America, Marketing Division, and National Retail Merchants Association. Locally he served on the Retail Task Force, Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Northern Ohio Communications Advocates (NOCA), and Sales and Marketing Executives of Cleveland.
He also served on the boards of Cleveland Institute of Music, and Project Learn, and became a Lifetime Board Member for the Hunger Network of Cleveland. Yet he still found the time to tutor special needs Lakewood elementary school students in reading.
Jerry was heavily invested in the Cleveland Advertising Association (AAF/Cleveland), serving as President, and multiple terms as a Board Member. He was twice awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Award and was elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame. In 2008, the Association established the Jerry Hoegner Award for outstanding volunteer service. He was also instrumental in bringing the national convention of the American Advertising Federation to Cleveland to celebrate the Association’s 100th Anniversary.
Recognized for his good works, Jerry was the first recipient of the Cleveland Advertising Association “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and received the same honor from Sales and Marketing Executives of Cleveland.
Jerry remained active after retirement with his church, Good Soil Lutheran Ministries in Rocky River. A devoted physical fitness enthusiast, he was a disciple of Jazzercize and loved weekly workouts well into his 80’s. He also tended to his beloved garden, a preoccupation surpassed only by his interest in the design and quality of the home he enjoyed so much. A weekly, jovial breakfast on Saturday with colleagues engaged in advertising and publishing was something to which he always looked forward.
He had an incredible resume and walked with the giants in his chosen field, but what people who knew Jerry remember most are his humility, genuine interest in others and sense of humor. He possessed the uncanny ability to connect in a positive way with everyone who came into his orbit. He was always glad to see you with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye. Jerry loved people, and the feeling was mutual. Everyone was valued in his eyes and consequently received dignity and respect. Jerry was genuine, the real thing. One was fortunate to have had Jerry in their life and they in his.
The last entry on Jerry’s list of 57 Favorite Things is the perfect metaphor for an amazing career and life well-lived, “The comfort of a well-worn leather chair.”
A private family service was held at Zeis McGreevey Funeral Home in Lakewood on Saturday, August 29, Pastor Marissa Harrison officiating. Interment will be at Lakewood Cemetery at a later date. A celebration of life service is contemplated for the future when family and friends can once again safely gather-together. The family expresses its sincere appreciation for your thoughts and prayers and hundreds of recollections about how Jerry was a part of your life.
If you desire to make a tribute to Jerry, the family gratefully suggests a donation in his name to your choice of: The Cleveland Animal Protective League, The Hunger Network of Cleveland, Good Soil Lutheran Ministries Rocky River, OH, The American Lung Association, The American Cancer Society, The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, The National Wildlife Federation, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Museum of Art.