Gerald (Jerry) Leon Honaker

September 5, 1925 - July 28, 2019
Gerald (Jerry) Leon Honaker

Gerald (Jerry) Leon Honaker died July 28, 2019 at Trinity Grove skilled nursing facility.

He was born in Huntington, West Virginia to John Chilton Honaker and Ica May Branch Honaker on September 5, 1925. He was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Thaise (Teddy) Honaker, in 2016. He is survived by two brothers, John Honaker and wife Diane, and Carl Honaker and wife Claire, son Geoffrey Honaker, his wife Deborah Covington and granddaughter Hope, and daughter Leslie Honaker Bolsover, her husband Stephen and grandchildren Gillian and Alex.

Jerry grew up in Huntington, graduated high school and enlisted in the Air Force in 1943. He was a tail gunner with the 451st Bombardment Group flying out of North Africa and Italy. His plane was shot down twice and he was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries. The second time he was shot down resulted in capture by the Germans and he remained in captivity until liberated in 1945.

Upon his return to the US, he attended Rollins College where he received a BA in Theater Arts in 1949. In 1951 Jerry received a MA in English and Drama from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and that summer was a cast member in the outdoor drama “Unto These Hills” in Cherokee NC. There he met the love of his life, Thaise Ruth Bedford and after a brief courtship they were married on October 15, 1951.

In 1956 he joined the faculty at Eastern Kentucky State University in Richmond KY and then in 1960 moved to Bloomington IN and became a teaching assistant at Indiana University while working on his PhD. In 1964 Jerry became the Chair of the Drama & Speech Department at Catawba College in Salisbury NC. He received his PhD in Speech and Theatre Arts from Indiana University in 1969.

During their time in Salisbury, he and Teddy were very active in the local arts community. Jerry directed plays for Catawba as well as the local community theater and Teddy directed the Choral Society and was music director for local theater productions. While in Salisbury they also organized and led several tours of Europe and had many extended visits with Leslie, at her home in England, watching Gillian and Alex grow up. After Gerry’s retirement from Catawba College, they moved to Wilmington and spent 25 years at their home in Pine Valley.

During their time in Wilmington they continued to travel the world, made great friends and enjoyed their grandchildren. Jerry worked at Coastal Photo, Kenan Auditorium and directed several plays for the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He also participated in the local theater community and enjoyed windsurfing well into his 70s.

In his later years he spent time writing his autobiography “One Lucky Life” which has been read and enjoyed by many of his friends and family. Additionally, he was a popular speaker at local meetings recounting his experiences during World War II and prison camp.

The family would like to thank the providers and staff at Trinity Grove for their loving support of Jerry during his time there.

The family intends a private ceremony at his interment. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be given to a charity of your choice.

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Post a Condolence” tab below.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation, 1535 S.41st Street Wilmington, NC 28403. 910.791.9099.

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  • July 30, 2019
    Becky Lippard lit a candle:
    Lit since July 30, 2019 at 7:27:22 PM

  • July 30, 2019
    Doragene Gurganus says:
    Geoff, Covey, And Hope; I’m so sorry to hear of Dr Honnaker’s passing. But what a life he had!! I know he’s in Heaven entertaining everyone with all of his stories! May God Bless all of you!

  • July 31, 2019
    Richard and Melinda Cheshire says:
    Geoff, We knew so little about your Dad. What a great life! I’m sure there will be many stories to share with your family and others. Melinda and I hope that you find some comfort in knowing that we are there if you need us.

  • July 31, 2019
    Donna Kraynick says:
    Geoff, Covi and Hope: So sorry for your loss. It seems as if your father lived a full life. I am sure he will be missed by all. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

  • August 13, 2019
    Barry Sang says:
    I never knew Jerry personally, but I certainly knew his reputation for substantial contributions to Catawba's Theatre Arts program. I am very grateful for his role in that great tradition.