It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the loss of a very dear member of the FTA family. Jerry Shields passed away Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 after a valiant battle with dementia. He was 80 years old.
In my 32+ years with FTA, I have met and worked with thousands of people. “Jerry Who,” as he kiddingly referred to himself, was definitely one of my favorites. The one word I think of that best describes Jerry is “nice.” He made Graymills a great company, and did it in a very respectable, professional manner. I have always had the utmost respect for Jerry’s commitment to FTA/FFTA, but more importantly, for the proactive nature of his involvement. We never had to ask Jerry to volunteer. He always beat us to the punch…as Board member and FFTA Board chair for an unprecedented six years, two-time Forum chair, developer and chair of the very successful FFTA Auction in the early 1980s, and the perennial policeman at INFOFLEX making sure all of the company tabletops adhered to the rules and regulations.
Jerry was always there for us, not only thinking of FTA as a worthy organization to support, but also showing his friendship and compassion to the members of the FTA staff. He always remembered us around the holidays—his signature gift was a big tin of popcorn for everyone to enjoy—and I could always count on a congratulatory phone call, card or even wall plaque every time we returned from another successful Forum. He never forgot to remember us!
I loved and respected Jerry as a mentor and friend from the first time I met him. There have only been a handful of people in my life who I credit with guiding me through my career and significantly contributing to where I am today. He is certainly at the top of my list and I am sure many others can say the same. I will miss him dearly.
Visitation and funeral services are going to be held on Monday, Aug. 14. Visitation is at 9:30 a.m., with a funeral mass at 11 a.m. St. Patrick’s Church, Lake Forest, IL. Arrangements are being handled by Wenban Funeral Home, Lake Forest, IL.
A memorial scholarship is being established in Jerry’s name for student’s studying Flexography. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to this memorial fund. Through a matching grant program authorized by the Board of Trustees, all funds raised will be matched by the Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association.
Gerald N. (Jerry) Shields was at home in an agency, association, tooling factory and almost any other setting. His passion to succeed and enthusiasm for what he was doing inspired many. Jerry long played the role of friend and mentor to fellow flexographers. His advice was sought out, listened to, followed and passed along.
Building a career that started in his father’s advertising agency, Shields and Co. in the early 1960s, Jerry later worked as a publisher with Chandler Publishing Co. and marketing manager for General Fire Extinguisher Co.
In 1971, Jerry entered the realm of flexography after accepting the position of marketing and advertising manager at Graymills Corp. He never looked back, only forward. Soon thereafter, he was introduced to FTA. After holding positions as director of marketing and sales, then vice president of marketing and sales at Graymills, he acquired ownership of the firm in October 1980. That December, he took the title of president.
Jerry attended his first FTA Forum in 1972. “After that, I was hooked,” he admitted on several occasions. One early assignment, he remembered fondly. “I signed up to participate in conducting FTA workshops—The ‘Rubber Chicken Dinner Circuit.’ FTA clearly pointed out to me that flexo was an industry of sharing for the good of the whole.”
In 1984, he was instrumental in assembling and participating in a South Pacific junket, designed to further the advancement of flexography in the region through workshops in Auckland, New Zealand, and both Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. Two years later, while serving on FTA’s Board of Directors, he chaired the annual Forum in Nashville, TN. A repeat performance, one of very few, came in 1992 in his hometown of Chicago, no less.
At the time of his 1990 installation into FTA’s Flexo Hall of Fame, Jerry was credited with being, “perennially active in promoting the use of viscosity controls as a means of attaining high quality flexographic print.” He was described as a frequent speaker at FTA events and contributor to FLEXO Magazine. In fact, for several years, he served on the publication’s Editorial Advisory Committee. Similar roles came on the Flexo in High School Advisory Council and FTA Project Evaluation Committee.
Recalling his Hall of Fame induction, Jerry said, “To sit in the audience, and after several minutes come to realize that the speaker is talking about you as the newest Hall of Fame inductee, was the biggest shock of my life. To be selected by those who helped build flexo, and those who I had long admired is a very humbling experience. I will never forget walking up on the stage for the first time to be welcomed into a group that I never expected to be a part of.”
Jerry shared his business acumen beyond FTA. He is a past president of North Business and Industrial Council in Chicago, served on the Chicago Economic Development Commission, was an advisory board member for Western Michigan University’s Printing Management and Research Center, and chaired the Northern Illinois Industrial Association.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Linda, and children, Kristen and Craig, all well known in the FTA family.