Jack Jerome is an incredible character who continues to leave a lasting impact on those he comes in contact with. Throughout his lifetime, he has held many titles, such as son, brother, chemist, husband, father, and volunteer. I had the pleasure of interviewing this Davie County treasure and one of his daughters, Martha, a few weeks shy of his 97th birthday!
Born in Pittsboro, NC, on August 19, 1926, Jack Jerome has lived the life of several men. After high school, he planned to study engineering at North Carolina State University. However, upon arrival at the university, he realized that too many of his classmates were pursuing that degree and changed his major to chemistry. When WWII broke out, Jack left NC State at 17 and joined the Navy with his twin brother, Henry. Jack, Henry, and their older brother, Fred, all served their country during the war. Jack detailed his 22 months in the Navy and his different overseas assignments. He was stationed in the ship’s engine room to maintain and monitor the machinery. During the war’s final moments, he served on a boat sent to Tokoyo Bay to help return and exchange prisoners of war. He shared how the exchange of soldiers signified that the end of the war was near.
After the war, Jack completed his studies at NC State, joining the long list of family members to graduate from the prominent North Carolina college. Jack and Martha raved about their lineage of NC State alums and spoke highly of their time at the university. Jack’s father, his brothers, all three children, and one grandson have graduated from NC State! Jack is known for his lifelong loyalty to the university. In conversations about which team Jack is rooting for when the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill plays, he says, “ABC!” which means “Anyone but Carolina.”
Upon graduation, Jack left his hometown of Pittsboro to begin his career at Erwin Mill in the small Davie County town of Cooleemee. As a chemist, he worked in the lab formulating dyes and establishing procedures for maintaining the consistency of the colors. He explained how much attention to detail it takes to develop the dyes used in manufacturing. His skill and hard work allowed him to be sent around the state and later around the world to help other facilities refine their lab processes. This was one aspect of this interview that was enlightening to me due to the complexity of making and replicating formals in manufacturing goods.
Later in life, his extraordinary talent in textiles allowed him to travel overseas to help big factories with their lab procedures. Jack raved about this time in his life and told me stories of riding camels in Egypt while he showed me beautiful art around his home from the countries he visited.
Throughout his years abroad and in Cooleemee, Jack was very busy being a husband, father, colleague, and literal jack of all trades. Outside of his work in the mill, Jack enjoyed making fully functional steam engines which he even rode himself! He spoke about his love for trains and how it grew over time. Jack played with trains when he was younger, but once he was older, he was fascinated with the functioning of the machine overall. His house in Cooleemee had a workshop where he spent a lot of time, which helped his curiosity about machinery flourish. Recalling this time in her life, Martha spoke fondly of her father riding the engines and commented that the steam engine even had a tiny shovel to put coal into the tender. Jack joined the Triad Live Streamers to further his knowledge and passion for his hobby. Jack’s face lit up as he spoke of his love for the mechanics of creating the engines and how his children’s neighborhood friends enjoyed coming over to ride the train. The train tracks in the backyard of the family home in Cooleemee left such a positive impact on the family. Listening to these stories about this passion project was such a pleasure, and watching both Martha and Jack beam happiness was something I hope more witness.
Jack’s love for his community and machinery didn’t stop with the steam engine. He recalled the beginning of the lawn mower parade in Cooleemee and stated that it started so small with a handful of people and later grew to what it is today. He spoke about how much growth he has witnessed with the parade and how much fun this Cooleemee event is each year. Jack was asked to be the grand marshal in the July 2023 parade! He spoke about how much fun he had riding in the car and throwing candy to the crowd.
Jack discussed the growth and change he has witnessed in Davie County over the years. Jack loves the community and continues to be actively involved to this day. Jack’s life has been filled with wonderful things that create connections with others, and he continues to make lasting impacts on those around him.
After living in Cooleemee for decades, Jack and his wife of 67 years, Martha, moved to the Bermuda Run area to be closer to the hospitals where they volunteer. Jack spoke highly of his time volunteering at the Davie Medical Center as a greeter, which continues to keep him busy in his retirement. Both Jack and Martha volunteered at Baptist Hospital for 30 years until the Davie Medical Center was opened in Advance, North Carolina. The Jeromes continued their volunteering at the newest hospital closest to their home. Jack continues to find joy in his volunteering to this day! Jack has a long history of volunteering. Years ago, he offered his time to Pilot View Resource Conservation and Development. While his children were in school, he served on the advisory board for Davie County High School. Both Jack and Martha kept busy throughout their lives between creating their careers and families.
Martha and Jack had three children together, Martha, Anne, and John. They shared a beautiful life full of love, adventure, and service. After their move to Bermuda Run, Martha’s health began to decline, and she passed in the Fall of 2022. She left a lasting impact on her husband, family, and friends. Listening to Jack and Martha speak so highly of her left a lasting impression on me.
Jack is such a gem in this world, so I can only imagine the greatness Martha Jerome possessed throughout her lifetime.
When I asked his daughter, Martha, about life lessons their father has shared with their family, she asked her siblings, and they all agreed that his main lesson was “family is always first.” Jack has always believed in supporting and loving his family, which is apparent in all his actions throughout the years. His children also agreed that he was often caught saying, “There is no instant transportation.” I think this is so telling about the patience and calmness that Jack continues to practice. It is so apparent that Jack’s family enjoys his humor and wisdom. The love that his family has for Jack is so understandable, and he continues to leave lasting impacts on those around him,
Jack was so welcoming and open about his many adventures. His kindness, sense of humor, and lifetime of experiences remain priceless to those lucky enough to meet him. Jack wants to continue giving back to his community and enjoy his retirement years. I could go on and on about Mr. Jack and his impact on the world. But my biggest takeaway from this interview is his lifetime of curiosity and service to others. Jack, throughout his 97 years on Earth, continues to be curious about learning and uses this curiosity to find ways to explore the world. Jack will continue to make a lasting impact on his family, community, and world through his dedication to furthering the betterment of those around him.
As a community, we are so lucky to have him amongst us. I hope more people get to experience his warm and lively presence! If you see this legend in the community, please thank him for his service and enjoy the warmth of his company. Please don’t forget to look at all the photographs he shared with us that capture his delightful personality.