Source: Sherman Publications

Powell was key to township development

by Trevor Keiser

March 30, 2011

When people remember longtime Independence Township resident Jerry Powell, they describe him as “a good guy,” “great athlete,” and “fun loving.”

“‘A good time’ was Jerry’s middle name,” said longtime friend Janet Glennie who met Jerry in the sixth grade. “He’ll be missed by many, many people.”

Powell passed away at age 66, on Feb. 4. He was an active member of the community for many years, including the Jaycees, Bottles for Buildings, March of Dimes as business chairman, American Legion, Junior Baseball Program, and Rotary Club. Powell also served as an Independence Township trustee from 1972-1980.

When it came to politics, he believed “people should retire out of not into politics.”

“Elected officials should be representatives of people not watch dogs,” he would say. “The village (prior to city-hood) is as important to the township as any other section.”

Janet’s husband Ed Glennie, former township supervisor, said Powell was “was always outspoken and always honest and forward” with issues that came before the board.

“He was probably one of the most fair and fun loving people I ever associate with,” Ed said. “He was extraordinarily fair.”

Former township Treasurer Fred Ritter, who also served on the township board with Powell, said he was a “valuable member to the board” because he brought a business perspective to the board.

“It was a good board when Jerry was on it, barely any conflict,” he said. “Everybody had a central goal, which was to advance the community.”

Jerry was the manager/co-owner of Ben Powell Disposal from 1962 until he sold the company to Leonard Smith in 1981 and it became Smith’s Disposal.

“Jerry was a really good guy,” said Carol (Smith) Evans, current owner. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am at right now.”

Another long-time friend Charlie Robinson, who also worked for Jerry at Powell Disposal said “Jerry worked hard, but played harder.”

Robinson said he recalled the days of umpiring softball together as well as officiating girls’ and boys’ basketball. Jerry was also Robinson’s best man in his wedding.

“I remember during his best man speech he said ‘may the best days of your past be the worst days of your future,’ and that has always stuck with me,” Robinson said.

Former Clarkston High School Principal and teacher Mel Vaara met Jerry in 1955, when Jerry was in the sixth grade.

“I was the first male elementary teacher and Mrs. Powell would have liked me to have been his teacher, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said. “He was one of my students in math in Junior High and I coached him in High School JV Basketball.”

Vaara said Jerry was funny and “was always had a lot of kids surrounding him because he was a fun kid to be with.”

Vaara also served on the board of appeals with Jerry and called him “a good politician.”

We were friends for a long time,” Vaara said. “It’s sad to see him pass at such a young age.”

Former wife Adele Powell said, sports and politics were his passion and he just enjoyed being and working with people.

“He just had a good personality,” she said. “People just liked him because he was an easy person to get along with.”

Jerry’s daughter Kyle Bokor, recalls her earliest memories hanging out at Clintonwood Park playing.

“We played softball out there for a number of years,” Bokor said. “Then I got to be the score keeper because I knew how to do it by the time I was an adolescent.”

Having a father so involved in the community, she said influenced her involvement in school, and her love for athletics. She said he even influenced her choice of college.

“Having gone to Michigan State University for a couple years, he was quite the Sparty fan and that permeated our household through the years,” she said. “I didn’t even consider applying at other colleges.”

One of her favorite memories was their Christmas Eve tradition.

“My mom had a job where she had to work Christmas eve, so instead of doing something fancy him and I would go to Big Boy and have Big Boy combinations every Christmas Eve,” she said. “That’s what we did and we were both perfectly happy about it.”