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Jerry Melville Torrence- 02/10/35 - 06/19/15
Jerry Melville Torrence
New York, New York

published on August 16, 2015
Des Moines Register

Jerry Melville Torrence

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 Douglass 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.

Jerry's 60th North High Reunion in 2013:

Jerry as the official "starter" for the bicycle race, etc.
North High:
YouTube for 60th Reunion:
Outside of Memorial Program; St. Charles Methodist Church; Saturday, August 29, 2015
The text under the photo above reads:
Jerry Melville Torrence
The one certainty in Jerry's life was where he wanted to be laid to rest, the St. Charles Cemetery in St. Charles, Madison County, Iowa. His grandparents, The Rev. William and Margaret Torrence, his devoted parents, James M. and Laura Dawn Torrence, and his beloved wife, Judith Kay Douglass Torrence, are all buried at this wonderful ground. Jerry has contributed generously over the years to the upkeep of the property, culminating in the new fence surrounding the grounds in 2011, dedicated to his revered family. After Judith's tragic passing at the age of 60 in 2002, Jerry ordered a dual headstone at her grave site; on the left was inscribed Judith's name, her date of birth, and on the third line, her date of death. On the right side was Jerry's name, his date of birth, and the third line left blank. Today, we gather at this site, in the deepest of sorrows and the fondest of memories, to grant Jerry that last wish. Our good friend, may you truly rest in peace
Inside of Memorial Program; St. Charles Methodist Church; Saturday, August 29, 2015
Jerry's acquaintances in New York contacted Claradell Gergely Shedd and requested background information on Jerry. Here is what Claradell sent to them:

Torrence Obituary; from Warren Harding and North High classmate, Claradell Gergely Shedd; 06/29/15

Jerry Melville Torrence, 80, of New York City, died Friday, June 19, 2015 at his home. Born February 10, 1935 in St. Charles, Madison County, Iowa, the only child of James Melville Torrence and Laura Dawn Black Torrence, Jerry's first four years were spent in St. Charles. After the age of five, the family had relocated to Des Moines, IA, in the Oak Park area at 3948 8th. Jerry attended and graduated from Oak Park Elementary in 1949, from Warren Harding Junior High in Highland Park in June, 1950, and from North High School in June, 1953. He graduated with a Commerce degree from the University of Iowa in 1957.

Another version of the above…
Born February 10, 1935 in St. Charles, Madison County, IA
Father: James Melville Torrence (1905-1996)
Mother: Laura Dawn Black Torrence (1904-1992)
Moved from St. Charles to Des Moines, IA. Lived after five years old in Des Moines at 3948 8th Street in Des Moines, IA

His father was employed at the Anderson-Erickson Dairy. Jerry's mother "adored Jerry" and was there to respond to his every request. A fellow classmate remembers her as being a meticulous housekeeper and extremely warm and hospitable to Jerry's visiting buddies. She never waivered. Jerry's recognition of his parents' caring and sensitivity reached very deeply and emotionally into Jerry's heart. After their decease, for over 18 years, Jerry retained the ownership and continued the upkeep of their (his) empty Des Moines home, not rearranging nor disturbing any item in its interior, and arranging to have the lawn mowed and the windows washed. Jerry's dedication remained loyal to the heritage, tradition, and legacy provided by his parents. During ensuing years during his domicile in New York City, whenever visiting in Des Moines, Jerry stayed at his "home away from home". Approximately five years ago, Jerry finally severed his connection with this long-established homestead and sold the property.

Another version of information above….
Recall Jerry mentioning that after the death of his parents, Jerry continued the upkeep of his and their former residence in Des Moines, not selling that residence until about 2010. Others have told me he left absolutely everything undisturbed and intact within his Des Moines house, perhaps out of respect for his parents, and his intent to be loyal to their heritage, tradition, and legacy.

Also, as a indicator of the measure of appreciation of his parents, he continued to actively participate in the maintenance and upgrading of their (and now to be his) final resting place in the St. Charles Cemetery. The fencing was recently replaced, and the lawns were always manicured. Jerry was a "great detailer". He requested cremation and a "matching urn" to that of his beloved late wife, Judith. He personally selected and had his tombstone placed.

A classmate of Jerry's at Oak Park Elementary, Warren Harding Junior High, and North High School remembers spending endless hours on Jerry's front porch, the residence being located on the Oak Park overhead trolley route at 8th and Madison (3948 8th Street). Spending these hours "people watching", Jerry had a humorous comment or observation about every individual boarding or disembarking at Jerry's corner. Periodically, Jerry had serious comments about "looking ahead." Another classmate recalls that Jerry's father would daily take the two of them to Warren Harding Junior High School in the family's 1934 Plymouth. (comment from Gene Pratt)

During junior high, Jerry showed promises of being a standout at track, "really fast", because he won every race. When he reached North High, he ran track. The 1953 track team, coached by James Lyle, placed first in the AAU, the State Indoor, and the Triangular track meets.

At North High, Jerry participated not only in track, but also in football and basketball.

In his senior year, during a game when North High was winning overwhelmingly, Coach George Falk said to the North football team, "I'm embarrassed that we are winning by such a huge margin. I feel sorry for their coach. Lay low and don't be overly aggressive in scoring." On the next play, Jerry got the ball and ran 76 yards for another touchdown. (comment from Jon Hockenberry)

Regarding Jerry at the University of Iowa, I received this from one of his fraternity brothers…..
To the best of my recollection, Jerry pledged Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) in the spring of 1954.
He became a member of our "7 Brothers from 7 States", our group that gets together for an Iowa football game every fall, in the early 2000's. (So named because we all live in different states.) I believe it was shortly after his wife passed, and we kind of became his " long distance" family.
He loved the SAE's and loved coming to our annual fall event. He told me it was all his holidays, Christmas & etc., rolled into one. Once we'd set the date for the football game, he'd have his motel and airline reservations made within a day or two.
Yes, he always flew into DM, when he came for the games. and would spend time in DM, and also go to St. Charles, to the cemetery, to pay his respects. As I believe you're aware, he also contributed to the upkeep of the cemetery.

St. Charles Cemetery; St. Charles, Iowa


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