By Carol Marsh
GREENVILLE — Washing and folding loads of laundry has always been a sure sign of civilized life in the modern world, with front loaders and industrial dryers to do to do our bidding in the endless quest to keep our clothes and linens clean. Here, in Greenville, one couple, Jerry and Irene Hiestand, has been helping businesses and residents with their laundry needs for over 54 years — and the time has finally come to turn off the machines and say farewell.
Darke County natives Jerry Hiestand and his wife, Irene (Drake) Hiestand, owners of Jerry’s Laundry, located at 319 Chestnut Street, have been a part of Greenville’s growth and culture for most of their lives. Irene was born just outside Greenville on the old Walker Farm, and Jerry, who was born in New Weston, moved to Greenville at the age of 12. Having met at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church youth group (on Devor Street), the couple graduated high school (Irene from GHS in 1956 and Jerry from Ansonia in 1957), and eventually married. When the Brooks Laundry, owned by Ed and Mary Ellen Brooks since 1934, became available for sale, Jerry and Irene decided to buy the Chestnut Street business, and on April 26, 1967, “Jerry’s Laundry” was established.
“Jerry started right in, learning about the laundry business,” said Irene. “And we had two employees.”
According to a 1974 Daily Advocate story, in seven years, the laundry had grown to four full-time employees, Aline Dickey and Jean Benton who handled the dryers and folding clothes, Edna Abbott who ironed, and Lois Jackson who sorted clothes and operated the permanent press washers. At that time, Jerry’s Laundry was doing 40,000 pounds of Laundry per month for Wayne Hospital, in addition to servicing the Greenville nursing homes, city and county jail, Corning Glass (among others) and washed 9,000 uniforms for General Athletic.
“Our biggest job was doing the Wayne Hospital laundry for 10 years, before they got built up,” said Jerry. “Since we did the laundry there, they have had three add-ons to the hospital!”
Although sons David and Wayne pursued other callings, Jerry and Irene continued to grow their business on Chestnut Street, never closing — even enduring rain, snow, and blizzards.
“My job was delivering for older people who couldn’t get out to do their laundry and needed help,” said Irene. “I’d pick up, wash and deliver for many years.”
When asked how Greenville has changed over the last 54 years, both Jerry and Irene chuckled.
“We are a ‘senior’ town, but we’re starting to see the kids come back,” said Irene. “Greenville has been great in innovating, with the Greenville City Park, YOLO Park, and the Annie Oakley square downtown. Things like that have really ‘perked up’ the town. It’s got a younger feel to it, making it easier to get together with family friends and neighbors. Greenville does a really good job of taking care of the older residents who live here… They watch out for us!”
Although life will be different after the “washing and folding” days are over, Irene and Jerry are looking forward to what new adventures a life in retirement has to offer.
“We’ve been on the same schedule for 54 years, so it’s going to be different. Even our dogs, Heidi and Bandit, will have to adjust!” laughed Irene. “ I’ve got a bunch of books I can’t wait to get started on… and nothing to do with washing and folding!”
Jerry plans to enjoy life tending to the landscaping and gardening at their beloved Chestnut Street home.
“Our customers and the people in Darke County have been so good to us,” said Irene. “We’ve made a lot of good friends and we appreciate them ‘putting up’ with us!”
As we say a fond farewell to Jerry’s Laundry, we wish Jerry and Irene Hiestand all the best in their new retirement adventures.
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.