Jerry was born to Francis W. and Grace King Laurent on January 8, 1940, in Knoxville, TN, where Francis worked as counsel for the Tennessee Valley Authority. With war imminent, his father rejoined the Navy as special assistant to the Judge Advocate General, and the family moved to Washington, D.C. Jerry was baptized at Christ’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA, attended primary school in Georgetown, and experienced wartime in the capital.
The Laurents moved to postwar occupied Germany, where Francis helped the U.S. government reorganize German industry. In Minden and Berlin, Jerry attended British and American schools. Never-ending rubble, survivors’ hunger, and children in need of shoes left their mark. When the 1948 Berlin Airlift began, the family left the city, traveled more of Europe, and returned to the United States.
Jerry’s first Wisconsin address was a small stone house on a farm near Thorp in Clark County. He attended a one-room school, then one of the State’s few remaining. His days taught him work ethic, animal husbandry, and land and water conservation. Jerry led many 4-H Club activities, and took part in Kids Campus School summer sessions at UW-Eau Claire for five years.
The family moved to Stanley in 1952, Jerry’s eighth-grade year. During his sophomore year at Stanley High School, he was bedridden with rheumatic fever for eight months, having to learn to walk again. Still, he graduated as Valedictorian in 1957.
Jerry enrolled at University Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where his academic and civic involvement grew. He graduated with honors in 1961 with a B.A. degree in Economics and History.
He felt teaching and researching economics was something he could do, and he did not look back. He attended graduate school at Indiana University-Bloomington, held a teaching assistantship, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Economics.
Jerry met his wife Virginia on the campus of Indiana University where she earned a Master’s Degree in teaching. They married in August, 1966 and began life together in Whitewater. He was appointed an Assistant Professor of Economics at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1965. They had two children, Katherine born in 1973 and Thomas in 1976.
Jerry loved teaching and won the W. P. Roseman Award for Outstanding Teaching at the UW-Whitewater in 1975. One of his proudest moments was winning the prize for a research article submitted to Explorations in Economic History, a British journal. He also received the UW-Whitewater Outstanding Service Award in 1993. In 2005 he received the President’s Award from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association.
Professional memberships include Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor Society in Economics; The Wisconsin Economics Association; The Association of Great Lakes Maritime History; and the Greater Chicagoland Friends of Economic History. He was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma by the UW-Whitewater in December, 1982.
Jerry was an active member of the former St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Whitewater for many years and was a charter member of Kiwanis Breakfast Club. He led in the development of the Lutheran/Episcopal Campus Ministry and served on the board for many years.
A scholarship in his name exists at the UW-Whitewater: the Laurent Economics Scholarship, given annually to a student to pursue graduate studies.
Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, Francis W. Laurent and Grace King Laurent, brother-in-law Gordon Norlin and sister-in-law, Carol B. Huggins. He is survived by his wife Virginia and two children, Katherine Laurent of Chicago and Thomas Laurent of Chicago; his sister Joyce and two nephews, Jim (Monica) and Paul; and his sister-in-law Margaret Pernau.
A funeral service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 22, 2019. Visitations will be at two locations: Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 and at 10:00 a.m. on Friday at St. Peter’s, 302 Merchants Ave., Fort Atkinson. Burial will take place at Hillside Cemetery in Whitewater.
Memorials may be given to the Jerome K. Laurent Economic Scholarship fund of the UW-Whitewater Foundation, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fort Atkinson, or the Stanley Area Historical Society. The Nitardy Funeral Home, Whitewater is assisting the family, www.nitardyfuneralhome.com