Lakewood Ranch's Jerry Hufford, the head of a veterans organization in Del Webb, dies at 69.
It was Dec. 24 and Del Webb's Jerry Hufford was doing what he always did best.
He was helping others.
The Lakewood Ranch resident was delivering quilts to four military veterans who lived at Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living.
Hufford was asked to pose with the veterans for a photo and he declined. He said he wanted the event to be all about the veterans and not him.
"He was the guy behind the scenes," said his wife, Peggy Hufford.
His efforts, though, always were front and center to the local residents who benefitted from his kindness.
Jerry Hufford died Feb. 8 from a heart attack at the age of 69. A graveside service was scheduled for 11 a.m. March 2 at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 S.R. 72, Sarasota. Those who wanted to join a car-pool to the cemetery were asked to meet at the Del Webb Clubhouse at 9:30 a.m. for the procession to the cemetery, where parking is limited.
Peggy Hufford said her husband will be remembered in Del Webb as the guy who would drop everything to run over and help people.
"I have 250 cards sitting on my dining room table," Peggy Hufford said. "Thirty of them are from people I don't know."
One of the notes came from a couple whose smoke alarm went off at 10:30 p.m. and wouldn't stop. They called Jerry Hufford, who raced over to fix it.
"He was known for being a great handyman," Peggy Hufford said. "He could fix anything. He installed landscape lighting for about 20 of our neighbors and never charged anyone anything He installed about 300 (American) flags on houses in our neighborhood. He got this idea about enlarging the driveways in Del Webb. He would find old pavers and help the neighbors do it."
Jerry Hufford started a golf cart business with his neighborhood friend, Herman Martinez, but it grew so quickly he decided he didn't want a full-time job, so he backed out. He still would fix anyone's golf cart who had a problem.
His wife said she is now experiencing how handy he was firsthand.
"Now I am the helpless wife," she said. "I can't even turn on the pool."
Martinez was the commander of the Association of Veterans and Military Supporters at Del Webb until health concerns forced him to step away two years ago. Hufford took over.
Despite his distaste for being in the spotlight, Jerry Hufford grew to love his new role, according to his wife. Peggy Hufford said he was proud to lead the organization in raising $22,000 to help veterans last year alone during the pandemic. She said he loved delivering meals to veterans during "Operation Thanksgiving" and would leave the veterans in tears.
"It was very heartwarming," she said. "He loved doing things like that."
Jerry and Peggy Hufford had a mission trip planned to the Philippines that she said was exciting to him. That would have been their next adventure.
They had just gotten back from a trip to Peru and Ecuador.
"We went to the Galápagos Islands, and we hiked 17,000 feet up the Rainbow Mountain," Peggy Hufford said. "We did some intense hiking and biking."
She said his heart attack was a shock because previous checkups had indicated he had no heart problems or blockages whatsoever. She said he was very active, playing volleyball and pickleball.
"He was the most generous, caring individual you would meet," Martinez said. "He never knew how to say no to anyone. He was kind and noble."
Martinez said Jerry Hufford's ability to listen made him special. He said he would always wait to speak until he listened to the ideas of others.
Jerry Hufford, a sergeant, served 1972-1976 in the Air Force as a hurricane hunter.
After a career as an engineer, he and his wife moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2017. He is survived by his wife, Peggy; his sister, Sandy Schauer; his two daughters, Tina Harris and Amy Hufford; his step-son Josh Nardi; and seven grandchildren.
Anyone who would like to share memories of Jerry Hufford can do so at PalmsMemorial.com.
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