Jerry Gilbert: Encourager Extraordinaire

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Eighty-five-year-young Jerry Glenn Gilbert is most likely no longer hollerin’, “Go, Vols!” My guess is that he is shouting some kind of heavenly version of “Go, God!” I wish I could compare notes with him regarding one of my favorite Mercy Me songs, “I Can Only Imagine.” I can genuinely imagine him singing it, and part of the chorus is stated below:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in amazement, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing, ‘Hallelujah?’ Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
Written by Bart Millard © Essential Music Publishing

But, I am going to have to wait for a bit to hear him sing in his new, strong, eternal voice; hopefully not too long. As irony would mandate, this song, which is an anointed favorite sung all over the globe, has been made into a movie, translated into many languages, and was born out of a young man’s experience with his father who was the polar opposite of Jerry Gilbert. Bart Millard’s dad spent many years acting like a veritable gremlin who finally tasted of amazing grace, and Jerry Gilbert was one of the most consistently kind and loving men I have ever known.

I came to know him beginning in 2003 when his wife, Judy; her daughter, Julie; his sister-in-law, Sue; and other family members became a part of what we have come to refer to as our extended Juice Plus family. He was one of those people whose eyes would light up when you came in the room, and when I would walk into their kitchen for various team events, he literally would say, “There she is!” Then he would chuckle and give some of the best hugs this side of heaven. They were safe hugs, too.
He believed in all of us as we began to make our way through the uncertain waters of building a network marketing business, and especially at the beginning, I needed to “borrow his belief,” as odd as that may sound. There were two more times when his belief in me meant everything; the first was when I got home from Iraq and wrote my book, and the second was when I found myself the publisher of Athens Now. As often as I could, I would make sure he had his own copy of the latest edition of the paper, and with complete sincerity he would thank me as though I had given him a perfect Christmas present.

There was one time when I was a caller on the Sean Hannity show, and I felt like I had been kind of a dork all over the airwaves of our nation. Jerry happened to be listening that day, and later made a point of telling me how proud he was of me. “I could tell it was you! They said, ‘Ali from Athens, AL,’ and it was your voice! You did great! Keep goin,’ girl,” he said, and not just on that occasion. Just that bit of à la minute encouragement lowered the “Dork Quotient” to a manageable level, and I was, and remain a grateful girl.

Jerry Gilbert was an “Encourager Extraordinaire,” and he has crossed the finish line. I miss him, I will see him again, and I want to be like him when I grow up. Rest in peace, dear man.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner