Meet Gerald Savoie

July 1, 2016 Resident Spotlight

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Gerald Savoie was never intended to be named Gerald. Odelia Savoie wanted her new son to be named after Patron Saint Gerard but because of a birth certificate mix-up, her son was officially named Gerald.

Perhaps his name isn’t what his mother intended, but after the full and accomplished life he has lived, Gerald Savoie has certainly made it his own.

Jerry Savoie was born on May 23, 1928, to a poor family in Ferndale, Michigan. His parents moved to Michigan from Quebec, Canada in 1925 at the promise of a “5 dollar a day job” for his father making Ford Model T cars.

“People always said, ‘Your parents really moved for a 5 dollar a day job?’ But for them, it was enough.”

Jerry was the youngest of seven siblings. Bedrooms were created in his family’s small house by hanging blankets and sheets from the ceiling. Though they were poor, they were a happy and close family.

Jerry had his first lesson in business from his dad. One time, Jerry asked for money to buy a treat. A proud man, his father cried when he didn’t have the few cents to give. He told Jerry he could sell vegetables from their garden to earn the money he needed.

“My dad would say, ‘Just sell enough to get your Baker candy bar,’ which cost two cents.”

Jerry and his brothers did just that. They never took advantage and never sold more than they needed to get their treat.

Jerry’s father urged the members of his family to pitch in. Jerry had a wide variety of jobs while growing up, including working at a post office and handling basement poured wall forms. He was a ready and skilled worker and developed a knack for business and sales.

After he married, Jerry worked at three large insulation firms with his brother Jim. Over time, they developed a reputation of good workmanship, with customers calling and “wanting the Savoie brothers.” Taking their experiences and excellent reputations, Jerry and Jim began their own insulation business, Savoie Insulation Company, in 1955.

One of the Savoie Insulation Company’s first jobs was insulating the original Lourdes Nursing Home during its construction over fifty years ago.

“I was very impressed with Lourdes,” Jerry said. “I never imagined I would end up in one of the facilities.”

Jerry remained with his company for 55 years, before turning it over to his son John.

Through his many jobs and business successes, family remained a focal point. Jerry was blessed to have close parents and siblings…and the love of his life.

In high school, Jerry was a gifted athlete and the basketball team captain. He had a full head of hair and even caught the eye of his future wife, Joyce, who “was always envious when he went down the [basketball court] and all that hair stayed put.”

Joyce was an accomplished student – Valedictorian of her senior class and the recipient of a Citizenship award. Jerry “didn’t think [he] would have a chance.”

After graduation and a fortuitous conversation with her brother, Jerry finally gave Joyce a call and took her to dinner. They were engaged on Christmas Day, exactly a year later, and were married at St. James Church in Ferndale on May 28, 1949.

“It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me,” Jerry said.

They were very poor – they had to use the wedding money they received to pay for their honeymoon to Niagara Falls and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

“We didn’t have much money to go elsewhere but with two people in love…Wonderful.”

Both Joyce and Jerry came from big families and wanted to have a large family of their own. They hoped to start having children right away, but life doesn’t always happen quite as planned. For five years, they waited.

“To be honest, we thought there was something wrong with me or with her,” Jerry said.

Eventually, the couple decided to adopt a baby. Just before the adoption agency finally called, the doctor informed them that Joyce was pregnant.

Jerry swore that upon finding out she was pregnant, “Joyce’s eyes gleamed like diamonds!”

In June 1955, over six years after their wedding day, Jerry and Joyce were blessed with a healthy baby girl named Joanne. Joanne was quickly followed by Joseph, John, Julie, and Janet.

Jerry said, “It seemed once we got started we couldn’t quit!”

As their family grew, Jerry took on new business prospects outside his insulation company. Jerry had a builder’s license and is responsible for the construction of several buildings in Clarkston. He and Joyce also made many profitable property investments.

Through it all, Joyce remained a constant source of support and encouragement. They were partners in business and in life.  In 2009, Joyce passed away, just short of what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary.

With Joyce’s passing, Jerry places even greater value on time spent with loved ones. Each of his five children lives within twelve miles away and he sees them often. He counts himself lucky to have been blessed with such a good family.

Jerry has been living at Fox Manor since 2012, and he is not the first in his family to live within the Lourdes Community. After his father died, Jerry’s mother lived at Lourdes Nursing Home for sixteen years.

“She was known as the life of the party, singing songs in French and making people laugh when they had a hard day,” Jerry recalled.

During his time at Fox Manor, Jerry has gifted others with his own positive attitude and good humor.

Jerry Savoie has a lot to be proud of in his life. He is a self-made man who learned to do many things well. But when asked what he is most proud of, he humbly went back the person who first taught him the value of hard work and of family – his father.

After all these years, it is evident that it matters little whether Jerry Savoie’s legal name is “Gerard” or “Gerald,” for the names he cherishes most are “proud son,” “loving husband,” and “supportive father.”

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