John Wasem on Jerry Gillespie

I was in Crawfordsville for meetings the last 3 days.  I made the 4 hour round trip last night to make it for part of Jerry’s visitation, but could not make it to the funeral today.  John Wasem sent me the Eulogy he gave for Jerry in the service.  It’s longer than a normal blog post, but worth it…


In the 1960’s, Jack Warner was the last of the five living brothers to sell his stock in Warner Brothers. He sold his share for 640 million dollars. A reporter asked him, “Mr. Warner, with all the money you have, how many friends do you have in the world?” I can imagine that the interviewer chuckled with a smile on his face as he asked that question. A sober-faced Warner replied, “I don’t have a single friend in the whole world. Any other questions?” Well, I guess as the saying goes you really can be “filthy rich” and “dirt poor” at the same time.

Everybody wants friends. Everybody needs friends – often more than he realizes. Loneliness is the number one emotional ailment in our world. Mother Teresa once said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty on earth”. Many of us, in spite of membership in a church, know how true her assertion is – don’t we?

The number of friendless people has more than doubled in the past twenty years. Research contends that a rising tide of loneliness has left the average American with only two close friends. Personally, I think this estimate is an exaggeration and quite likely on the high end. However, for those of us who were blessed to have our life intersect with Jerry Gillespie, we had a special, unique, loyal, and God-honoring friend.

When God made the world and put His human creation in that perfect environment known as the Garden of Eden, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Related to this biblical truth, Jerry told me a story one day (one of many, many stories!). It went like this …

A little boy was home one day after his family had moved again – one of several moves in a period of a couple of years. He had been in and out of schools multiple times. On this day, the boy was sitting on the front porch in a very melancholy mood. His Dad came up and the boy said, “Dad, who do you want to be – Superman or Batman?”

Dad was preoccupied with a repair project and said, “Well, son, you know, I’m kind of busy right now. Ask me later.”

“Dad, come on, who do you want to be – Superman or Batman?” “Well, okay … Superman. Yeah, I want to be Superman.”

“Why Dad? Why would you want to be Superman?” “Well, I don’t know, son. Because … he can fly, that’s why.” And Dad went on about his business.

The little boy persisted, “Dad, aren’t you going to ask me who I want to be?” A bit irritated, the Dad complied. “Okay, son. Who do you want to be – Superman or Batman?” “I want to be Batman, Dad,” the little boy said proudly and enthusiastically.

“Good, son, that’s good.”


“What now, son?”

“Aren’t you going to ask me why?”

“Okay,” the father sighed, “why do you want to be Batman?”

“I want to be Batman because Batman has a friend.”

The answer stopped Dad dead in his tracks. He turned around and saw that his son had tears in his eyes. “Son, do you need a friend?”

“Yeah, Dad, I need a friend … more than I need Superman.”

 Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “A friend is a present you give yourself.” There are some things that we discuss only with people who are very close to us, people we know well and trust. These important topics will vary with the situation or the person – we may ask for help, probe for understanding, or just need a sounding board for important decisions – but these are the people who make up our core network of confidants. Jerry was in this pastor’s core network for over 20 years and I have thanked God for him so many times. I will miss him.

Friends, we need each other. We need each other more than we may admit or realize. The Lord knew this well. Is it any surprise that in the New Testament there are 21 different admonitions to Christ-followers that include the words “one another”?

  • Greet one another (Romans 16:16)
  • Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
  • Love one another (John 13:34, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 and 4:10)
  • Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  • Encourage one another (Matthew 5:24)
  • Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16 and 14:19)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

 In many ways, Jerry Gillespie was a living illustration of the marks of a God-honoring friend defined in the book of Proverbs. Jerry was …

 COMMITTED – “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jerry was a committed, loyal friend.

 Secondly, Jerry modeled friendship by being …

 CONSIDERATE Friendliness bears fruit for people” or as a paraphrase words it – “Kindness makes a person attractive to others” (Proverbs 17:9).

 If you want to know who your friends are, make a mistake. A God-honoring friend will not say “I told you so” or “I knew you would”. Real friends don’t kick you when you are down.

Many years ago, I received a card from Jerry. It read, “You’re a good egg … Even if you are a little cracked.” Ah, the quintessential Flatop! Funny, but how true! Jerry was one of a few people who knew just how true it was of his friend.

 Thirdly, Jerry, as most all of us know, was a true friend because he was …

 CANDID – “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds of a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:5-6).

 A trusted friend will level with you … shoot straight with you … be open, honest, and frank. Out of genuine concern for your best interest, he will tell you the truth even when it is painful. Proverbs 24:26 expresses it this way, “An honest answer is the sign of a true friendship.”

 As a God-honoring friend, Jerry proved in my relationship with him to be …

 CONFIDENTIAL – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person maintains and respects it” (Proverbs 11:13).

 I’m sorry but I can’t help it. This reminds me of another story that Jerry told me and probably told you too.

It’s the story of the three friends who were out fishing. One of the men said, “To pass the time, why don’t we all share our most common sin – the one that is our biggest challenge.” The first man said, “The sin I wrestle with is greed.” The next friend said, “I really struggle with lust. It very embarrassing and frustrating, but I have a hard time keeping my eyes to myself.” The third man said, “Well, my greatest sin is gossip and I can’t wait to get this boat back in the dock and get to a phone.”

A friend is one who can listen without having a burning desire to broadcast it.

Next, Jerry as my friend was …

CONSTRUCTIVE – “As iron sharpens iron, so friends shape friends” (Proverbs 27:17 Knox Translation).

Friends shape friends. What a powerful truth! A godly friend will be constructive … will be an encourager like Barnabas, the son of encouragement, as described in the early chapters of Acts. Or as Emerson wrote, “A real friend makes us do what we can do.”

                A godly friend will rejoice with his friend who has reason to rejoice … and will weep with that friend when the disappointments or injuries of life bring sorrow. A true friend will welcome his friend telling all about his or her recent victories and achievements and would never feel it was bragging. That was Jerry.

And Jerry had another great quality as a friend. He was …

CONSISTENT – “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

A true friend is in your corner when they see that you are cornered. A real friend will see you through when others say you are through. A true friend walks in when everybody else is walking out. This friend will stand with you through “thick and thin”.

God wants us to have and nurture two-way, mutual friendships. Friendships that empower others by “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds”  and “encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). And occasionally, God gives us a friend who models friendship at its best. God gave us Jerry.

A great and lasting tribute that you can pay to our friend who has now gone home … is to strive to be a God-honoring friend.

Jerry emailed me a quote that I have kept at my desk for several years now. “To be held in the heart of a friend is to be a king.” How true. And you know as well as I do … Jerry Gillespie made so of us – royalty. Good night, Jerry. See you in the morning, my friend..

~ by Greg Lee on July 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “John Wasem on Jerry Gillespie”

  1. Thank you for sharing. “A friend is a present you give yourself.” And yet to be a friend you have to give so much of yourself. It is so worth it.

    I’m sorry for your loss Greg. It sounds like Jerry lived a rich life if one is to measure how many friends/family he will be waiting to be reunited with.

    • Hey John,

      I think I saw your daughter in the Crown Point Parade yesterday!

      • Happy 5th of July!

        That was Diane helping promote the Indiana Ballet Theatre. She was so excited to tell me that she saw you and Jenny and the kids. Quick story: On the way to her little float I told her she did not have to participate because of the weather. I was trying to give her an out because we were all sick not to long ago. She told me she was doing it for the lord. That was magical for her Daddy. More importantly I told her that she was blessed but Jesus was going to bless her even more. See you at 11:00 a.m.

  2. Greg,
    Will & I were able to attend the funeral service for Jerry. I am so glad that we were able to witness the outpouring of people paying their respect to Jerry and Shirley. John Wasem was eloquent as always and we were able to say a few words to him. Will wore his kilt and we are certain that Jerry was pleased! The bag pipes were hauntingly beautiful and brought a peace. I am glad that you got to go to the visitation.

    Will & Martha

  3. Unfortunately, I did not know Jerry…what a loss not to have been touched by such a wonderful Godly person. However, I read John Wasem’s words and was so stirred by his summation of friendship. We should all be challenged to live life in such a way as to be a friend like Jerry. Thank you for sharing…I plan on keeping this eulogy handy so I can pull it out every once in a while to see if I am honoring God in my walk with my friends.

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