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Family remembers Jerry ‘JerrBear’ Badger after losing fight to COVID-19

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 12:37 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - If you knew Jerry Badger, 59, you probably knew him as “JerrBear."

"He's just a big caring, loving, always had a big smile on his face," Jake Badger, his son, described. "Always greeted you with a big hug."

Jerry Badger was a mechanic for 40 years, and known for his love of country music, NASCAR and cars.

"Chevy, specifically," Sierra Floyd, Jake's fiance, told WAVE 3 News.

“Always had a Chevy hat on or a Chevy shirt,” Jake Badger added.

He and Floyd said his dad loved country music, and supporting Jake’s band Revival anywhere they played.

“Music’s always been my dad and I’s thing,” Jake Badger said. “We listened to music anywhere we go or if we were going to a show or something.”

Jerry Badger started to feel sick a few weeks ago. He tested negative for the flu, and a week later he wasn’t getting any better.

“Dad’s always been a pretty healthy guy,” Jake Badger said. “He’s a mechanic, he’s strong. He’s hardly ever sick besides the common cold every once in a while or some allergies but never had any underlying issues.”

He said he picked his dad up and took him to the hospital. At the time, his father had a 70% oxygen level, and it was hard for him just to walk from the house to the car.

“I didn’t get to hug him bye or anything,” Jake Badger said. “I said, ‘Alright Pop, I’ll see you in a little bit. Let me know how you’re doing and love you,’ and that was it.”

Jake Badger said he talked to his dad on the phone a few hours later, where he sounded better. But the following day, Jerry Badger was put on a ventilator.

"He wouldn't have thought he wasn't going to come back out of the hospital," Floyd said.

“I mean, he walked into the hospital and never walked out,” Jake Badger said.

Jerry Badger’s kidneys started to fail, and he was put on dialysis. That’s when his son posted updates on social media that got hundreds of shares all over the country with people promising to pray for his father.

“I was able to FaceTime the family and they were all able to at least say goodbye over the phone, which doesn’t do it justice but it’s better than just sitting around waiting for a phone call,” Jake said.

“I was able to FaceTime the family and they were all able to at least say goodbye over the phone, which doesn’t do it justice but it’s better than just sitting around waiting for a phone call,” Jake Badger said.

On April 5th, 2020, Jerry Badger took his last breath.

The Badger family was unable to have a memorial service for him because of the pandemic. They were able to see him for 15 minutes and then had to sit in their car for a graveside service.

“For my dad not to have a bunch of family and friends be there in his final day so we can celebrate him is probably the hardest thing besides losing him,” Jake Badger said.

He said it’s all still very surreal knowing Jerry is no longer on this earth.

“We still find ourselves wanting to call or text him,” Jake Badger said. “And with the rest of the world shut down, it doesn’t make it any easier.”

Jerry Badger was diagnosed with COVID-19, but that’s not how people will remember him: They’ll remember his smile, laugh and love for everyone.

“I want people to remember dad by just making light of every situation no matter what gets thrown at you,” his son said. “Keep that smile on your face and laugh your way through it because that’s how he was with everything.”

From monetary donations to Facebook posts to people making masks for healthcare workers in Jerry’s memory, Jake Badger and Floyd said the community’s support during this time has been amazing for the family.

There is a GoFundMe set up for the family to help with expenses.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.