Dr. Benson “Jerry” Hecker, 85, gifted with an extraordinary sense of humor and ability to tell and re-tell stories that kept family and friends laughing and wishing for more, died on Monday, October 8, 2018 of complications related to congestive heart failure.
A long-time resident of Greenville, he was born in New York City on September 15, 1933 to Ralph and Betty Lazar Hecker.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by sisters Mildred and Susan Hecker.
Jerry enlisted in the United States Navy during the Korean War and served his country proudly from 1951-59. The nickname “Jerry”, a reminder of a prankster/comedian of the time, alluded to his dive from the deck of the USS Mississippi – a 40-feet jump – to retrieve a baseball needed to finish a Sunday afternoon ball game. The “man overboard” situation did not amuse the battleship’s captain but the nickname stuck.
A graduate from Springfield College (B.S., Recreation & Youth Leadership, 1964) and Michigan State University (M.A., Rehabilitation Counseling, 1967), Jerry completed a doctoral degree at the University of Maryland (Ph.D., Rehabilitation Counseling, 1972) and post-doctoral studies at the University of Florida (Life Care Planning Certification, 1996). An American Board of Vocational Experts Diplomat, Certified Vocational Evaluation Specialist, and Vocational Expert, he consulted for military, civilian, and legal agencies on international, national, and local levels.
Jerry was an avid reader who also enjoyed listening to recordings and watching films of famous comedians and fictional characters, especially those featuring the spoken New York vernacular that never really left him. He was entertained by the Rodney Dangerfields, the cast of the Happy Days, and the Jackie Masons of this world and amused others with absurd word puns and stories that had a critical edge. He poked fun at authoritarian figures; ridiculed arrogance; and his humor affirmed his belief in the worth and dignity of all.
He was a member of Temple of Israel where he served as president of the Temple Brotherhood (1987-1993), a group constituted by “expat” New Yorkers and New Jerseyans who gathered to reminisce, organize activities that brought together members of Upstate congregations, and enjoy one another’s company during Sunday lox and bagels breakfasts or summer picnics in the park.
Above all else, Jerry cherished his family and the many childhood and college friends with whom he kept in touch over the years. He is survived by Nelly Jeifez Hecker, his wife of 52 years; two daughters and sons-in-law, Jessica Hecker Marke and her husband David Marke of Greenville, and Rachel Hecker Bretler and her husband Marc Bretler of Lutry, Switzerland; three grandsons, Jacob Marke, Joshua Marke, and Joseph Bretler; and caring friends that were like family.
Jerry loved animals. In recent years, he enjoyed the company of Bella, the family’s very spoiled German shepherd; Tibbie, the calico cat of many purrs; and the numerous well-fed wild birds that visited him daily. Jerry brought joy to many, laughed with many, and would want us to remember him with a smile. After all, as he said countless times, “I have a story to tell you.”
The family wishes to express its gratitude to the outstanding medical and nursing teams who shared responsibility for Jerry’s care during his illness.
Funeral Services will take place on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at the Temple of Israel. Burial will be at Beth Israel Cemetery in Graceland Cemetery West, 4814 White Horse Rd, Greenville, SC 29611.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the Temple of Israel General Fund, 400 Spring Forest Road, Greenville, SC 29615; or United Ministries, 606 Pendleton Street, Greenville, SC 29601; or a charity of choice.
Thomas McAfee Funeral Home, Downtown.
Temple of Israel General Fund
400 Spring Forest Road, Greenville SC 29615
606 Pendleton Street, Greenville SC 29601