Jerry Strickland is enjoying retirement life in Scottsdale, Ariz., following a successful 41-year State Farm career.
Golf, bridge, reading, working-out and travel fill his days, but the Bloomington native has not forgotten his roots.
He can reach back into time without any difficulty when he and his brother, Karl, made do with less.
Strickland's mother, Mabel, who died a few years ago, was a long-time associate of Gailey Eye Clinic.
"We found cracked baseball bats and nailed them together," he recalled. "We used baseballs until they no longer had seams, then we taped them together. We shared gloves."
An athlete at Bloomington High School and Illinois State Normal, Strickland fondly remembers deceased Jack Horenberger, the long-time Illinois Wesleyan coach and athletic director.
"Coach Horenberger would open the old Memorial Gymnasium so we could play basketball," he said. "Then, he would ask us to turn out the lights when we left and be sure the doors were locked."
Strickland's State Farm career included work in the Human Resources Area; Corporate Director of Personnel; Executive Assistant in the Office of the Chairman; Regional vice president for Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota; and Regional vice president for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
His career closed with his successful assignment to create and lead a strategic task force for the purpose of recommending a formal reorganization and restructuring of the companies.
"I had a lot of help along the way," said Strickland. "Jack Secord, in particular, gave me a big boost early in my career."
Strickland, who has two degrees from Illinois State, played football for Roger Tobin, basketball for Joe Morin and baseball for Howard Saar at BHS.
Strickland and Morin have something in common. Morin taught State Farm CEO Ed Rust Jr., how to drive. Strickland, while working summers on the waterfront at State Farm Park, taught Rust how to swim.
Strickland was a quarterback and halfback at BHS but shared the quarterback position with Ken Anderson, a retired State Farm agent who became a quarterback at Illinois Wesleyan. Stickland played shortstop and second base for Saar.
"Baseball was my favorite sport," said Strickland. "What a wonderful gentleman Saar was. I came back when they named the baseball field in his honor.
"There were so many good athletes at BHS, including Don Dixon, Gene Thoele, Gary Francis, Bob Boge and Joe Theis."
Strickland played baseball for Harold Frye and Warren Crews at State Normal. A shortstop at ISNU, Strickland also competed in the summer Municipal League. He also earned a swimming letter at State Normal.
"I received a call from Bob Pomerenke, who was the State Normal swimming coach," explained Strickland. "He said he needed a freestyler when the second semester began in seven days.
"I had never been a competitive swimmer and I was out of shape. Bob explained that his two freestylers had gone ineligible at the semester. So, I swam that second semester and lettered."
Strickland and his wife, Chris, have a 28-year-old son, Matt, who graduated from Southern Methodist and lives in Houston.
"Matt was a 1-handicap golfer out of high school and he beats me easily," said Strickland.
Karl Strickland earned football and track letters at BHS and football at State Normal. He lives in Houston.
"I was blessed to have such a rewarding career at State Farm," said Jerry Strickland, who was waiting out a frost delay at one of the six courses he can play.
Jim Barnhart is the retired sports editor of The Pantagraph. Contact him at email@example.com