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Obituary for Girard G Etheridge, Jr.

LAKELAND - Girard G. ‘Jerry’ Etheridge, Jr. of Lakeland, Florida passed away peacefully on August 11, 2017. He was 91.

Born September 4, 1925, Jerry was a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He and his family moved to Philadelphia, PA when Jerry was 13 years old. He graduated from Olney High School. After high school Jerry served in the United States Navy during WW II, serving first on the battleship U.S.S. Nevada (BB36) and later on the light cruiser U.S.S. Fargo (CL106) in the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets as a Radarman. Upon discharge from the Navy he attended and graduated from Temple University with a degree in Business and Public Administration. After graduation he landed a position with Swift and Company in their Philadelphia Business Office. In July of 1950 after a three-year engagement, he married the love of his life, Ruth Ellen Foehl; whom he met when his family moved into the home across the street from hers in Philadelphia. Shortly after their marriage, Jerry was promoted to Assistant District Manager of Dairy and Poultry with Swift and he and Ruth relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1954 they moved back to Philadelphia when Jerry accepted a position as Assistant Manager of Woodside Amusement Park. Just two years later he accepted the position of Manager of the Wildwood Crest, New Jersey Amusement Pier.

In 1957 Jerry and Ruth moved to warmer climates so Jerry could join his Father and his Brother, Owners of Miller Bearings, Inc. First at the Ocala Branch, then onto to the Orlando Branch, and finally settling in Lakeland in 1958 to join his Father at Miller Bearings Corporate Headquarters. That same year he and Ruth welcomed their first born, a son, Girard G. Etheridge III. Four years later their daughter, Ruth E., was born. Eleven years after joining the company he was elected President and Chairman of the Board for Miller Bearings until his semi-retirement in 1985. He served as Chair Emeritus up until his retirement in December of 2015. Jerry’s legacy will live on as he received the esteemed honor of the Lakeland Branch being named after him during his lifetime.


From his upbringing in the deep South, Jerry was always a gentleman and a man of integrity. He was a loving father who provided well for his family. Whatever his children’s interests were he was always supportive; chronicling their childhood taking pictures, films and in later years videos. He was rarely seen without his camera or video camera. He was a voracious reader and found fulfilment reading many books including the bible on his Kindle. He was also a keen card and bridge player. He tinkered with tools and could fix anything as long as he could find the part or tools he needed at the local Crowder Brothers Store at Southgate Shopping Center.

Jerry with his wife travelled to many wonderful places; Russia, Asia, China, Scandinavia, Canada, Europe, Bermuda, across the United States including numerous trips to Hawaii.

Jerry was an astute business man. This was evidenced by his many professional accolades and achievements throughout his career. He was a Past President of the International Power Transmission Distributor Association, presented with this association’s Trailblazer Award of Excellence for Community Relations, and in 2005 was the 16th recipient of the prestigious Warren Pike Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the international Bearings Specialist Association, and a Board Member of the National Associations of Distributors-Wholesale.

He’s involvement with the City of Lakeland and Polk County was equally vast as he was a Past President of the Lakeland Presidents Roundtable and the Polk County Federation. He was a past Chairman of the City of Lakeland Beautification Committee. He was a member of Lakeland Mayor's ACE Committee. He served 12 years on the City of Lakeland Civil Service Board and served as Chairman intermittently from 1964 through 1974. He served 12 years on the City of Lakeland Employees Pension Retirement Fund and served as chairman various times from 1965 through 1973. He served six years on the City of Lakeland Code Board with two years as Chair. He was a past Vice President of the Lakeland Convention Bureau. He was active on the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Squeezer Committee, member of the Governors Polk County Board, and served on Polk County Sheriff's Merit Board.

Jerry’s love for his greater Lakeland community was immeasurable. His civic and charitable involvement included Past President of the Lakeland’s Junior Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, Lions Club and Shrine Club. In 1960, he was awarded as one of the 10 Jaycees Outstanding Young Men in Lakeland. One of his favorite times of the year in the sixties was when he participated in Lakeland’s Christmas Parade riding the Shriner’s Clown van. He and Ruth hosted many political and charitable fund raiser parties in their home. He was a recipient of the Lion’s Club Outstanding Service Award. He was a life member (60-plus years) of Frankford Masonic Lodge 292, Philadelphia, PA, the Scottish Rite, and the Tampa Egypt Shrine Temple (59 years). He was a THIRTY-THIRD degree Scottish Rite Mason. Was a faithful member of the Tampa Court 89, Royal Order of Jesters since 1979 and served as Director. A President of the Lake Region Billiken Club, Chairman of the Constables Committee of the National Association of the Royal Order of Jesters, Past Secretary/Treasurer of The Jesters of Florida, Emeritus Member of the National Court Royal Order of Jesters, Member of the SOBIB of the National Court of Jesters, former member of the Kachina Klub of Royal Order of Jesters, Past President of the Ridge Chapter Royal Order of Jesters. In 1993 Jerry was appointed by the Governor of Kentucky as a ‘Kentucky Colonel’.

He was a member of First United Methodist Church, 40 year plus member of both the Lakeland Yacht & Country Club and Lone Palm Golf Club

Jerry’s daughter thanks the faithfulness and devotion given by his care givers; Mary Nichols and Judy Walker. Their special care and love made such a difference to whom they affectionately referred to as Mister ‘E’.

Jerry is predeceased by his devoted wife of 64 years, Ruth Foehl Etheridge, son, Girard G. Etheridge III, parents, Frances and Girard G. Etheridge, Sr., and brother, Frank R. Etheridge.

He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Ruth E. and Brian D. Gardner, Lakeland, and his niece, Lynne R. Etheridge of Winter Park, Florida.

Services will be held on Friday, August 18 at First United Methodist Church, 72 Lake Morton Drive, Lakeland. Visitation in the Parlour at 1:00 PM, followed by the Celebration of Life service at 2:00 PM in the Chapel. Interment will follow the service at Oak Hill Burial Park Cemetery, Lakeland.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa, Transportation Fund, 12502 USF Pine Drive, Tampa, FL 33612 , https://donate.lovetotherescue.org/nobel-jerry .
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.heathfuneralchapel.com


To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Girard G Etheridge, Jr., please visit our Tribute Store.

Upcoming Events

Visitation

Friday

18

Aug

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
First United Methodist Church Chapel

72 Lake Morton Drive
Lakeland, Florida 33801

Service

Friday

18

Aug

2:00 PM
First United Methodist Church Chapel

72 Lake Morton Drive
Lakeland, Florida 33801

Cemetery Details

Location

Oak Hill Burial Park

4620 US Highway 98 South,
Lakeland, FL 33812

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