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Dr. Gerald W. Bell (Jerry), of Urbana, passed away Friday, July 28, 2023, at Carle Hospital, with his wife, son, and pastor by his side.
Jerry was born September 1, 1949, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, to Warren G. Bell and Elizabeth Miller Bell. He graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1967 and married Barbara Stonecipher of Crawfordsville on June 16, 1973. They had just celebrated 50 years of marriage.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, his son, Jason of Urbana, and his daughter Erin (Darin) Wike of Manor, Texas; three grandchildren, Katie Bell, Nate Bell, and Avery Wike. He is also survived by his sister Mariana Threlkeld and his brother Greg (Martha) Bell, both of Crawfordsville; two brothers in law, Bob (Christine Sobrido) Stonecipher and Phil (Jackie) Stonecipher, both of Florida, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Marilyn Bell, his brother-in-law Fred Threlkeld, his parents-in law, Cecil and Annabel Stonecipher, and his sister-in-law, Barbara Stonecipher.
Jerry earned his undergraduate degree from Ball State University, his graduate degree from the University of Arizona, a doctorate in education from Brigham Young University, and a certificate in physical therapy from The Ohio State University. He was an Emeriti Professor and an Emeriti Director of Sports Injuries Research in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 26 years and retired in 2005. He was also a physical therapist and worked several years for Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital as a nursing home consultant and then in home health physical therapy after retiring.
Jerry started his career as an athletic trainer for California State University, Sacramento, where his children were born. He was dedicated to athletic training but also determined to be a good husband and dad, so he chose the opportunity to work as a physical therapist in Hilo, Hawaii. It only too a few short months, however, to realize that he missed working with students and teaching which brought the family to Urbana in 1979. As beautiful as Hawaii was, it was wonderful to return to the Midwest and live close to both sets of grandparents.
Jerry’s resume is long because he was driven to support his love of athletic training. He was frequently rated excellent by student evaluations, and was a mentor to several graduate students. In the early years at UIUC, he worked at the Rehab Center with the wheelchair sports athletes and its former Back Clinic for the public; he also worked closely with the dance majors; and served on numerous committees.
Jerry volunteered at the U.S. Olympic Training Center hoping to work as an athletic trainer for the Olympics. As luck would have it, the year it was his turn in the rotation, the U.S. boycotted the Olympics. He then volunteered to work with U.S. Swimming and covered competitions in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kobe, Japan, Honolulu, Hawaii, Rome, Italy, and Vancouver, Canada.
Jerry was a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association for 54 years and was inducted in to the NATA Hall of Fame in 2005. He also was a long-time member of the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association (GLATA), serving one term as president and received its Golden Pinnacle Award in 2017. He was a member of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association (IATA) and an important member of the committee that fought for licensure of athletic trainers in Illinois in 1985. He was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1991. Jerry was very proud of the recognition and awards, yet was humble and not one to call attention to himself.
He was a frequent presenter at conferences and authored numerous publications in professional journals and magazines. As a member of the NATA Professional Education Committee, he made accreditation visits to evaluate athletic training programs, mostly on weekends, to not take away from his work time on campus. He volunteered as an athletic trainer for the Prairie State Games, the National Sports Festival IV in Indianapolis, and the Indiana White River Park State Games.
Jerry was a force to be reckoned with outside of work as well because he also managed to support his wife in her career and equally gave of himself to his children. He was thrilled to be a grandfather. He was highly self-disciplined. His philosophy was “If you can’t find time to do it right the first time, how will you find time to do it over.”
He showed his passion for life and love in the following ways: traveling (visiting family/friends, Civil War sites, National Parks, cruises); supporting Barb’s teaching career and his children’s education and financial needs (wink); the Moody Blues, Dad jokes and blaming animals around him for his flatulence; the Chicago Cubs (almost never missing a game and went to Wrigley once a year but said “best seats in the house are in my living room”, the Fighting Illini (he practically bled orange and blue), his grandchildren’s soccer games for Champaign Centennial; and sending postcards or cards to his loved ones with brief but powerfully positive messages. He was the supreme coupon shopper and loved buying Christmas gag gifts. He was in no way finished because he had already booked a train trip across the country for next summer stating it was on his bucket list, and was considering what next cruise he wanted to take with Barb.
Services will be held on Friday, August 11, at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 South Prospect Avenue, in Champaign. Visitation will begin at 12:00 p.m. with a Celebration of Life to begin at 2:00 p.m. The inurnment of Jerry’s ashes will be in the Columbarium and Prayer Garden next to the church. Cremation services were rendered by Renner-Wikoff Chapel & Crematory in Urbana, Illinois. Donations can be made in his memory via check to the Faith United Methodist Church for the Adult Mission and ASP Fund. If one prefers using a credit card, information is available at www.champaignfaith.org .