GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An iconic figure on Grand Rapids’ West side, Jerry Drake, better known as Jerry “The Flower Man,” is in the thoughts and prayers of many. His caretaker, Lyle Myers, said Jerry was hospitalized last week with a liver condition that may only give him months to live.
“Right now, he’s probably about the most important person there is, or celebrity, around the West side that I can think of,” said Myers.
Jerry has touched the lives of hundreds. Usually you can catch him walking with a bucket of flowers to sell on the West side, often stopping into the McDonald’s on Leonard Street to grab a bite.
McDonald’s employee Jen Wade said she looked forward to seeing Jerry every day. Last week she was shocked when Jerry called her from the hospital telling her he was sick.
“(Jerry) just really touched my heart, and the fact that he remembered me,” said Wade. “He knew you by your name, and he knew a lot of people by their names. He always made a point of that, and he never got your name wrong.”
Myers has known Jerry nearly 36 years and calls him family. Jerry moved in with the Myers’ family several years ago once Myer’s mother, who had also cared for Jerry, passed.
“We’re going to try to get him back on his feet,” said Myers. "We’re hoping, within who knows, maybe a week or two."
Usually on Sundays Jerry would come by Rose Bowl Floral, one of the flower shops that would give him flowers to sell, including some of his favorites: carnations and roses.
Heather Cooper, employee of Rose Bowl Floral, had a message for Jerry: “We care about you at Rose Bowl, and hopefully you can come back and see us sometime."
Over at Walker Street Pharmacy, the feeling is mutual. Employees held up a stocking they made for Jerry in the hope they will see him soon.
“Jerry we’re praying for you, the whole Walker Street Pharmacy, and we miss you and hope to see you soon,” said Maryann Williams, Walker Street Pharmacy clerk.
Jerry and his flowers will be cherished beyond the miles he has walked throughout this neighborhood for years. “I’ve still got flowers that I dried that he gave me,” said Wade. “I’ll treasure those, and I won’t get rid them ever now.”
Loved ones organized this GoFundMe page to raise funds for Jerry.
For now, if anyone would like to send Jerry something, you can contact Jill Myers by sending her a message on Facebook.