GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.— His smiling face was seen by thousands on the West side of Grand Rapids over the years, and as word spread that Jerry Drake, commonly known as Jerry The Flower Man, had lost his battle to illness, dozens felt compelled to do something in his memory.
“I realized he had a lot of friends, but I had no idea it impacted the community this much,” said Debbie Myers, who took care of Jerry for many years.
It wasn’t just family and close friends taking part in Monday night’s event, but even long lost classmates and admirers of Jerry’s spirit.
Some have told FOX 17 News in the past that Jerry made it a point to know everyone’s name who he came in contact. The special attention and care he gave to every single person, along with a smile and a flower or two brought dozens of people to celebrate a life they said Grand Rapids will greatly miss.
“Nobody could do flowers like Jerry,” said Debbie Myers.
Myers and her husband Lyle said Jerry has been part of their family since he was 24 years old. Some of Lyle’s favorite memories were taking Jerry out to sell flowers.
“I met him when I was a kid because he was always trying to sell my Dad flowers. I just sort of grew up with him,” said Warren Rypma who knows Jerry as a staple of his community.
A simple act made so many people happy. The flowers and smile Jerry carried around were infectious.
“I was surprised of how something simple could turn into something overwhelming,” said Lyle.
Lyle and Debbie think of him as family. They even took him into their home after his mother passed away in the '80s. Their love is echoed by community members who held a celebration of life fit for a king. Monday night they had a band, an enormous food spread, a cake decorated with flowers, pictures of Jerry decorated the room, and of course a symbol to the legacy he left behind, flowers.
“There was time I spent more time with him than I did my own wife,” said Lyle.
Debbie and Lyle learned things they never knew about Jerry from people he knew before he came into their life.
“Coming together here, the first gentleman that I talked to was a classmate of Jerry’s, and it really impacted me,” said Debbie as tears rolled down her face.
The classmate was from Jerry’s second grade class.
“I didn’t know what his life was like before he came to our family,” said Debbie.
That person is James Boddy, who found out Jerry was sick from a social media post, and that same friend told him about the celebration Monday night. He knew he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“He wasn’t only a friend he was like a mentor. He’s done a lot for other people as well as me, and I’ll never forget that,” said Boddy.
A true testament to a man who could light up the West side by making peoples' days with a bucket of flowers, and some kind words.