HAGERSTOWN — John R. “Jack” Hershey Jr., who died Wednesday, was known for his flair in the financial industry and his deep involvement in the community.
But he also had a sense of humor.
Jerry Spessard, business manager of J. Gruber’s “Hagerstown Town & Country Almanack,” related a story Thursday to show how Hershey’s unique outlook on life made for lasting memories.
In the 1960s, Hershey was in charge of a Valentine’s Day dance at Fountain Head Country Club when fire broke out in the building, Spessard said.
He said Hershey told him that women were panicking and grabbing their valuable furs to make sure they weren’t lost in the fire, which ended up torching a ballroom, bar, dining room and golf shop.
Hershey sought to calm down the crowd and convinced a band playing at the event to perform “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” Spessard said.
“He played hard but he also worked hard,” he said. “Everything he did, he put 100 percent into.”
Hershey, 86, was known for his devotion to the community, serving on more than 10 boards, clubs and organizations over the years.
He and his wife, Anna, were generous with their money, too, agreeing at one point to donate $250,000 for a new Washington County hospital.
Hershey and David Beachley each gave $250,000 to the Hagerstown YMCA, where an aquatic center bears their surnames. Hershey and his wife also gave to Girls Inc. of Washington County.
Hershey began working for E.I. DuPont de Nemours after graduating from college, but Spessard recalled how he talked about being a people person and wanting to find a different job.
Hershey went into the investment industry in the 1950s and started going door-to-door selling stocks, said Spessard, Hershey’s former son-in-law.
“I’m not sure if they all did (it that way) but he did,” Spessard said.
Howard Kaylor, a friend of Hershey’s, recalls doing the same thing when he started selling stocks.
“I went the other direction so we wouldn’t step on each other,” Kaylor said.
Kaylor and Hershey were both named a Person of the Year by The Herald-Mail. Kaylor said he remembered in the newspaper interview for his recognition talking about how Hershey changed his life.
Kaylor said he was working at the local Fairchild plant, but wanted to do something different. Kaylor said Hershey contacted him one day and asked that he join him in the brokerage business.
It’s a career that Kaylor stayed in for 52 years.
Kaylor said he last talked to Hershey about a week ago, and the two had planned to get together for dinner this week.
Then Hershey started feeling bad, he said.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get the dinner in, but that’s the way it goes,” Kaylor said.
Phil Rohrer, another good friend of Hershey’s, recalled serving on the board of directors of the Hagerstown YMCA with Hershey, as well as on the board of Rose Hill Cemetery with him.
Rohrer, retired chief executive officer for Hagerstown Trust, said Hershey served on the Rose Hill board for more than 50 years.
On March 25 of last year, Hershey and his wife were honored for their service to the community at a gala at Hagerstown Community Center’s Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.
Rohrer said the attendance at the event was one of the largest he had ever seen at such a gathering.
“We are certainly going to miss Jack, and he and Anna were a great couple,” Rohrer said.
Hershey was also the managing partner of J. Gruber’s “Hagerstown Town & Country Almanack” for 22 years, a business that was passed down to Hershey through his family, Spessard said.
Spessard recalled that when Hershey passed the business to him, he said: “‘Make it fun or don’t do it at all.’”
“I learned so much from him. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him,” Spessard said.