Jay Michael Gellerman
June 1, 1938-March 1, 2019
BETTENDORF – Jay Michael Gellerman, age 80, of Bettendorf, passed away at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House, surrounded by his family on Friday, March 1, 2019.
Funeral services will be held at Noon on Monday at the Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri City Jewish Center, 2715 30th St., Rock Island. Burial is at Hebrew Cemetery, Rock Island. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri City Jewish Center. Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home and Crematory, Rock Island is assisting the family.
Jay was born on June 1, 1938, in Moline, to Herbert and Rose (Osherorff) Gellerman. Jay graduated from Rock Island High School in 1956. He loved jazz music and played the clarinet and saxophone in a jazz band in high school. Jay went on to the University of Illinois, where he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and graduated in 1960 with a degree in business. Following college, Jay served in the Army for two years stationed in Germany, followed by seven years in the U.S. Army Reserves, achieving the rank of Captain.
On March 8, 1964, he married his best friend, Sharon Levin. Together, they had two children, David and Stephanie (Tansey).
Jay joined his father’s business, Jaydon, in 1962. He started with the company at the age of 14, working in the warehouse and loading trucks. Over the years he did almost every job in the growing company before succeeding his father as its President & CEO in 1980. Jay was instrumental in the growth and evolution of the rack jobbing and service merchandising industry. This translated into years of serving on national and international industry boards including Chairman of the Service Merchandisers of American, board member of Toiletries Merchandisers of America, Chairman of the National Association of Service Merchandisers, and Chairman of the General Merchandise Distributors Council. In addition to Jaydon, Jay worked with his father to help grow Hawkeye Investments, a publicly traded commercial real estate investment firm, beginning in 1962. Eventually, Jay took that company private in 1996 and continued to serve as its Chairman.
He served on the board of the Tri-City Jewish Center for over 50 years. He was a past President and chaired many committees over the years, including the Building Committee during the construction of a new facility. Jay was an avid (and often frustrated) Bears, Cubs and Hawkeye fan. He was a Charter Member of the Kinnick Society at the University of Iowa. In his desire to give back to the community that had been so good to his family, Jay led an investment group to purchase the Quad City Thunder in 1996 after learning that the team would be leaving the Quad Cities. He was the majority owner of the team until the league was sold in 2000.
It was the simple things in life that Jay never took for granted, commenting daily how fortunate and thankful he was. Above all, Jay was absolutely devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren. He was a very caring and compassionate person, and always put the needs of other before his own. A great husband, father and grandfather, he never missed an opportunity to spend time with his family. He attended every sporting and special event of his children and grandchildren. Jay believed that creating lasting memories and experiences with his children and grandchildren was the most important legacy he could leave. For the last 35 years, Jay, Sharon, their children and grandchildren vacationed together every winter holiday season. It was during those times that he was able to spend countless hours with his family laughing and telling stories. He treasured this time he called “making memories.” He was a man of integrity, believing that every person should be treated with dignity and respect. To know Jay was to love him.
He is survived by his beloved wife of just one-week shy of 55 years, Sharon; son, David (Rene) Gellerman; daughter, Stephanie (Jim) Tansey; and his adored grandchildren, Max, Josh, and Gabby Gellerman, Sam and Grace Hipple, and Zach and Alexis Tansey.
Special thanks to Dr. Ed Motto, Genesis East nurses and doctors and staff at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice Home.
Jay will be remembered as a shining light in the many lives he touched. Online condolences may be left at wheelanpressly.com.