By Dan Hust
BETHEL Ginny Bossley noted the vibrantly-colored flowers in the packed Ramsay’s Funeral Home in Kauneonga Lake Wednesday.
“I expect that reflected Jerry’s personality well,” she said to the agreeing crowd.
Officiating at the funeral and representing his hometown Bethel Presbyterian Church, Bossley was speaking of John “Jerry” Hector, the beloved owner of the famous Hector’s Inn in Bethel. He passed away Friday at the age of 81.
Tuesday and Wednesday, family and friends paid their respects hundreds of them, in fact.
“By the number of people who were here last night and today,” Bossley said, “this man was loved.
“... I can understand,” she added, “why Woodstock was really at Jerry’s place!”
Bossley didn’t know Jerry as well as much of the standing-room-only crowd, but her words left few dry eyes.
“Jerry’s life was one of love, generosity and wisdom,” she explained, recalling the tale that Jerry, a Korean War veteran, declined a Purple Heart.
“He said, ‘Give it to someone else, because I have the wound to remember it by,’” she said.
Mary Poppiins came to know Jerry through the Woodstock Nation and like everyone else, she was instantly accepted.
“He never turned anybody away,” she related. “He always fed people and opened up his heart. ... When you went to Hector’s, the wandering was over.”
The house-turned-bar that is Hector’s was already 20 years old when the Woodstock festival arrived in August 1969.
The crowds surprised everyone but Jerry.
“He had the vision that this was going to be a big event,” recalled Duke Devlin, the well-known Woodstock historian, after the funeral. “He actually stocked way, way, way ahead, and he was prepared when those crowds came down 17B.”
Devlin himself had just arrived and saw people carrying six-packs. A few inquiries later, he met Jerry.
“We just hit it off,” he acknowledged. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
Jerry loved NASCAR, harness racing and spending time in Florida, said several speakers, and he had such a knack for disappearing and reappearing, many thought Hector’s featured some sort of secret, underground tunnel.
But beyond that, his legacy is even now as closely tied to Woodstock as Max Yasgur’s.
“They both came from the same kettle,” said Devlin.
“There isn’t anybody of the Woodstock generation that doesn’t know Jerry Hector not one,” added Poppiins. “And that generation is spread around the world.”