Jerry Robert Gusewelle, 87, of Little Rock, departed this life on Saturday, June 10, 2023. He was born on November 29th, 1935, in Trenton, Mo., to Vern Robert Gusewelle and wife Jessie. He was raised from age 4 in Little Rock, Arkansas, attending Little Rock Senior High School, where he was chosen to attend Arkansas Boys' State. After graduation from high school in 1953, he attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, participating in Air Force ROTC, and playing trumpet in the Razorback Band. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha. While in college, he had the good fortune to meet Mary Sue Jackson, who would be his wife and partner for the next 63 years. Jerry and Mary Sue married June 3rd, 1956, while still students at the U of A. Upon graduation with a BA in Business Administration in 1957, Jerry followed in his father's footsteps, going to work for JCPenney's. They relocated to Shreveport, La., where he trained for management. During their time in Shreveport, Mary Sue gave birth to their three sons: Dennis, David and Tommy. In 1964, the Gusewelle family relocated to Irving, Texas, where Jerry would become the JCPenney's assistant store manager. During their time in Irving, Mary Sue gave birth to their fourth child, Mary Ann. Jerry's first store as general manager was in downtown San Antonio, Texas, where the family lived in 1972-1973. After a year in San Antonio, he was promoted to the JCPenney's district staff in the Dallas/Fort Worth region and relocated back to Irving. As a district manager, he oversaw the operations of stores in the region including Northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Southern Missouri, and Northern Louisiana. In Arkansas, he was instrumental in opening stores in El Dorado, Russellville, and Pine Bluff. He was especially proud of opening the store in Harrison, Ark., because he convinced the corporate office that a Penney's store would profit there. He practically put his career on the line for a store that--despite skepticism from higher up--he believed in. In 1980, he was sent to open the new store in Wichita, Kan. By this time, the three boys had graduated high school, and were attending college at the University of Arkansas. After the successful opening of the Wichita store, Jerry was transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he would become general manager of the University Mall Penney's store—which was the biggest store in the state. This was personal to Jerry, because his father was the Penney's store manager in Little Rock for 18 years. By this time, Jerry had become involved in many civic, business, and charitable organizations. He served on the board of directors of the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce from 1986 to 1988, and again in 1993. In 1985, he was Chairman of the Board of the Better Business Bureau of Arkansas, as well as Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Retail Merchants Association (1985-1986). In the years 1987-1988, he was president of the Little Rock Downtown Kiwanis Club. From 1989 to 1994, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Baptist Medical System Foundation. In 1990, he was Chairman of the Board of the United Way of Pulaski County, and in 1995, charter member Board Emeritus. He served from 1994 to 1995 as Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association. He was also a board member of the College of Business Administration at the University of Arkansas. He was a prolific fundraiser for the Arkansas Repertory Theater. His many civic activities earned him a feature in the Arkansas Democrat's High Profile in 1987. In 1995, Jerry retired from JCPenney's, and remained a citizen of Little Rock with his wife Mary Sue. His three boys all graduated from the University of Arkansas, and his daughter graduated from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark. Jerry was a scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts during his years living in Texas, accompanying his sons through the program from 1970 to 1975, ultimately receiving the Silver Beaver award. He was an avid hunter and fisherman all his life, and especially looked forward to the annual Buffalo River float which reunited him with his sons for an afternoon of fishing, rowing, and relaxation. He was a huge Razorbacks fan. During his entire adult life, Jerry was deeply involved in the Church. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Sue, and his daughter, Mary. They attended Little Rock Second Baptist Church, where he was a deacon. Jerry is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law Dennis (Laura), David (Angie), and Tommy (Delores), six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Visitation will be held 11 a.m., Saturday, June 17, 2023, with a funeral service following at 12 noon. To share memories of Jerry, please visit www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/chenal.
Published June 13, 2023