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Henry Jeter paved the way for blacktopping company

July 09, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." This continuing series will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Henry Huston Jeter, who died June 29 at the age of 88. His obituary appeared in the June 30 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




Joyce Jeter Jones remembers how after church on Sundays, she and her siblings would be sent out to put fliers on cars around Hagerstown, advertising their father's fledgling business.

That was in the early 1950s, when H. Jeter Blacktop was in its infancy and its co-founder, Henry Huston Jeter, was working hard to make a go of the new enterprise, which boasted just five workers at that time.

Now known as Jeter Paving Co., the family-owned firm employs more than 50.

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Henry Huston Jeter died June 29 at the age of 88.

"Even when he started the business, daddy was also working for the Western Maryland Railway, selling real estate and rehabbing apartments," said his surviving son, Ronnie H. Jeter.

Henry retired from Jeter Paving in 1973. Dave Jeter, Henry's brother and co-founder of the business, currently is superintendent. Henry's son, Ronnie, and his three sons, Dale, Kevin and Ronnie, also are involved in the family business.

Though retired from the paving business more than 32 years ago, Henry stayed active in railroading until 1980.

"Daddy earned 75 cents an hour," son Ronnie said of Henry's early days on the railroad. He mostly worked in the roundhouse, and later on train accident cleanup crews.

Joyce described her father as a workaholic who was built like an ox. Born in Hagerstown, she said she was "raised" by older siblings, Ronnie and Geraldine Jeter Andrews, both of whom had been born in West Virginia.

"Ronnie and I raised ourselves," Geraldine added.

Henry also had two other sons, Harold and Jimmy, now deceased.

While visiting family in Texas in the early 1980s, Henry was introduced to his second wife by his daughter.

"I brought my dad to meet Reba," Geraldine said.

A senior sales manager for Home Interiors and Gifts in Dallas, Reba was in her mid-50s when she first met the widower from Hagerstown.

"He was 65 then, but he looked so young," Reba said.

It was Christmas Eve 1981 when Reba's own personal Santa Claus came into her life - a man she married two years later, then moved with to Hagerstown.

"I never dreamed I'd ever leave Texas," Reba said as she looked back over her 23 years with Henry. But this "lovely man" worked his magic on her.

Reba said she had no children, and no brothers or sisters.

"I got a family in the bargain when I married Henry," she said.

Born in Tennessee, Henry was the oldest of eight children, many of whom he took care of in those early years.

"He only finished the fourth or fifth grade, but he was very sharp," Geraldine said. "If you got into a debate with him, you'd better come prepared."

Son Ronnie said his father's optimism was a leading characteristic.

"I called it his can-do attitude," Joyce said.

Grandson Ronnie described him as a major tinkerer.

"He was always into something," he said.

Once, Henry took two cars, cut them apart and put them together into one strange-looking vehicle.

There also was a big white Buick that Henry drove, piling his grandsons on board for fishing and swimming outings that will stand out forever.

In 1993, Henry had a stroke.

"I've been giving up little bits of Henry ever since then," Reba said. "But I wouldn't take anything in the world to have missed this experience."

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