Monday, July 9, 2018

About Jerry Slavik

In the Beginning...
Jerry was born on a farm in Blenheim, Ontario on June 1, 1932.  His parents were Albert and Frances Slavik who immigrated from what is now the Czech Republic.  His siblings were Albert, Steve, and Mary (Hedrick).  Although the family moved to Windsor when Jerry was 6 months old, he and his siblings spent most of their summers working on the farm of his much loved Aunt Mary and Uncle John Koneckny.

Hockey League
Street hockey figured large in Jerry and Steve’s childhood, so it’s not surprising that once they were introduced to the ice, they became formidable defenceman.  At W. D. Lowe Vocational School, which he attended between 1946 and 1950, Jerry played on 3 WSSA City Championship teams and the 1946-47 OFSAA All-Ontario Championship squad.  Jerry and Steve were the biggest players on the W.D. Lowe team and received a healthy round of ‘boos’ whenever they stepped on the ice.  Such were the friendships at Lowe, that a group continued to get together once a month until very recently. 
In 1948, Jerry played for the Windsor Spitfires Junior “B” team which was coached by Jimmy Skinner.  He played three further seasons with other local Junior “B” teams.

Jerry married Helen Hames on October 1, 1952.  They went on to have six children: Carol, Patti, John (deceased) (Gloria), Brian (Sue), Mary (Steve), and Margaret.  Their grandchildren bear the same stubborn streak as Jerry, as well as his artistic talent: Brandon (Jordan), Steve (Natalie), Peter, Samantha, Steven (Kate), Wesley, Brooke, and Lily.  Great-grandson, Maddix, will likely be just as fierce and tall as Jerry.
(Back Row, L to R) Brian, Carol, John, Jerry.
(Front Row, L to R) Margaret, Patti, Mary, Helen.

Windsor Factory Supply
While in high school, Jerry met Joe Sobocan who was running for class president. When Joe asked Jerry to help with his campaign posters, Jerry's reply was, "How big, what colours and how many?" This would be the start of a friendship that would last for over 70 years.

In fact, a few years later (1955), Jerry and Joe founded Windsor Factory Supply (WFS). It was established as a profit-sharing company so that all employees would benefit from the struggles and successes of their labour - a concept that was years ahead of its time.  The company grew to become the largest industrial distribution company in southwestern Ontario. Jerry was most proud of receiving the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Award. Jerry continued going to the office everyday to continue all his charitable activity and it was only illness that kept him away.  In fact, Jerry was so adamant to be at work that during one major snowstorm, back in the 1980’s, he left the car in the driveway and ran to work.

A Life Changing Accident
In 1963, Jerry was driving in the company’s pick-up truck when a bicycle crossed his path.  To avoid collision, Jerry turned the truck into a ditch, went through the windshield which resulted in a broken hip.  With five children now at home, Helen and Jerry were told that he might not walk again.  For Helen, this was an incredibly difficult time as she did not drive.  Jerry’s parents were often on hand to help, but it was Helen that held their young family together.  Confined in a chest to ankle body cast, he spent six months in hospital. Jerry was not interested in the doctor’s prognosis, so upon release, he turned to the Windsor YMCA to begin a lifelong commitment to rehabilitation through running. Of course, he first had to learn to walk again.

A Second Career in Racing
For 24 years, Jerry logged every mile – 31,000 in all. During this time, he completed one Boston Marathon and six Detroit Free Press Marathons. In 1970, he founded Windsor’s first road running club called the YMCA Road Runners and its first road race, the Percy Such Run. He was a co-founder of WRACE (Walkers and Runners Around the County of Essex), a local organization that stages 40 to 50 races annually. He also founded the Grade School 26-Mile Marathon, an event that ran for 20 consecutive years in Windsor.
Jerry at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics
(Back Row, 2nd from left)

Jerry was also selected to be a track official at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.

Jerry received numerous awards for his contributions to youth and community sports. He won the Canadian 125th Anniversary Confederation Medal for achievements on behalf of Canada in 1992. He has also won the AKO Person-of-the-Year Award, the MEDA Charitable Trust Award, the University of Windsor “A” Award, and the St. Clair College Booster Club Man-of-the-Year Award.

Acknowledging his contributions as a figure in the city’s running community, the Windsor-Essex Sports Hall of Fame inducted Jerry in 1998. And it didn't stop there. In the years that followed, Jerry was a major force in organizing both the 13th Pan American Junior Athletic Championships (2005) and the 2008 Canadian Olympic Championships/Beijing Trials - both held here in Windsor.

In 2006, Jerry helped to establish "Knobby's Kids" (named after the late Robert "Knobby" Knudsen) - a skating and hockey program for kids who cannot afford to play in organized skating or hockey leagues.

Jerry loved Windsor, and Windsor loved Jerry. 

SLAVIK, Jerry: After a valiant fight, it is with tremendous sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Jerry on Monday, May 14, 2017 just shy of his 86th birthday.  Predeceased by son, John (June 15, 2017).  Jerry leaves his loving wife Helen of 65 years.  Lovingly remembered by children Carol, Patti, Brian (Sue), Mary (Steve Peters), and Margaret.  Treasured grandchildren Brandon (Jordan), Steve (Natalie), Peter, Samantha, Steven (Katie), Wesley, Brooke, Lily, and great-grandson Maddix.  Fondly remembered by Neil, Gloria, and Trish (Andrea).  Co-founder of Windsor Factory Supply Ltd., Jerry will be missed by his partner Joe Sobocan and the WFS family.    Jerry loved Windsor and worked as a volunteer to make it a better place for families. He gave his time, energy and enthusiasm to many endeavours including the founding of the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre, The Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, and, Knobby’s Kids.  He is a legend in Windsor track and field which sprung from his own need to recover from a serious accident in 1963.  Jerry was happiest at the start of track and field season, and every meet was the most important one whether it was for elementary schools, or, the Junior Pan Am Games.  Jerry loved making people happy – especially kids which made Knobby’s Kids his favourite.  There was nothing better than getting to the rink at -20 degrees with pots of Tim’s hot chocolate and boxes of donuts, and then ensuring every kid had the right hockey equipment.  For friends, it was his love of Czech music that help sustain a radio program in Cleveland, and, support the Dan Coppins Polka Dance in Essex.  Jerry was always ready to help. Our family will miss him terribly – whether it was at the cottage or holidays at home, dad made sure we all had the best time possible.  His grandchildren completely adored.

Just as Jerry was busy in the community, he kept his “health care team” busy.  The family would like to thank CCAC for the tremendous care they gave to Jerry over the past 5 years that enabled him to continue to go to work (even when he was not supposed to).  This past six months were especially challenging and we thank Essex Windsor EMS, the nurses at Bayshore Health Care, staff, doctors, and nurses at WRH Ouellette campus.  In memory of Jerry, the family would appreciate donations to The Hospice, Knobby’s Kids, and, WRH Foundation. 

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