Geraldine “Jeri” Hemmick was a “go-go girl.”
The 95-year-old whose entrepreneurial and open spirit helped shape the Highland Square neighborhood didn’t dance on stages in miniskirts, though even in her ’90s she had the energy.
Rather, Hemmick, who died Monday surrounded by her daughter and caretakers, was always on the proverbial go, seeking new experiences and always reaching out to people — any people with whom she came in contact.
“She just generated this love for people that people really gave back to her too,” her daughter Mindy Hemmick-Murphy said.
Hemmick’s lust for life, love of people and her desire to help them never waned.
Born in Greensburg, Pa., Hemmick moved to Akron with her mother, Annabell Pflueger, as a young child. She grew up in Akron and Pennsylvania, eventually graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
She married Milburn K. Hemmick, a Navy pilot, and the couple traveled the country and Europe and had daughter Mindy, now 60. Through all his years of service and time spent living in Spain, San Francisco, Florida and Rhode Island the familial trio always found time for family adventures: museum trips, hosting parties, outdoor activities, any good reason to “go” somewhere, do something and meet someone new.
In the early ’70s, when in her late 40s, Hemmick moved back to Akron, became a licensed practical nurse, and then, defying convention, went into business with her mother.
The entrepreneurial mother-daughter team first opened the Red Lion Sandwich Board, then the Village (which is now Frank’s Place), and finally the Highland Square neighborhood anchor, Annabell’s Bar and Lounge.
For years, Hemmick would cook a day’s worth of food in her small Georgetown Condominiums dwelling near Highland Square and then haul it to the bar to feed the customers. Following the death of her mother and the bar’s namesake, Hemmick eventually sold the bar and retired — but she remained on the go.
“She backpacked around Europe in her ’70s with me for two months,” Murphy recalled.
“And all we had was a EuroRail pass. So we went from place to place; we were winging it. We had other backpackers from other countries traveling with us for days at a time because they didn’t want to leave us. That’s how my mom was,” she said.
Into her ’90s, Murphy stayed active, playing bridge with her crew and winning so many Texas Hold ’Em tournaments in her signature sparkly hats that she became known as “The Shark.” She was always helping and receiving love in return.
“There’s so many people who just loved my mom. The people at Goodwill knew her and would come over and give her a hug,” her daughter said.
“That’s what she would do. She’d go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill and get things to take to people in the winter. We’d have a whole truck full of scavenged stuff that my mom got to take down to the [Akron] Snow Angels [charity] and to the shelter,” she said.
Despite having enough retirement money to live anywhere she wanted, Hemmick stayed in her modest two-bedroom condo and shared her indefatigable spirit with all.
“She gave off this aura of acceptance, that what you do isn’t necessarily who you are. And she had that unconditional love that we need to have for everyone,” Hemmick-Murphy said.
That acceptance also extended to handsome men of any age and size.
“Especially from about 85 on, she was such a big flirt, Hemmick-Murphy said with a chuckle.
Even as her body failed, Hemmick wanted to carry on — asking about playing poker just a few days before her death.
“She was still a go-go girl even when she hurt all over her body; going for steroid injections, emphysema, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, you could barely touch some areas on her but she was still ready to go, go go.”
“She wanted to be part of life. She wanted to live life,” Hemmick-Murphy said.
But aside from her love of living, her affection and good works for the people who crossed her far-reaching life path, to daughter Mindy she was first and foremost her loving mother.
“She’s still talking to me every day. Still pushing me through,” Hemmick-Murphy said.
“[She was] a single mom who made sure her daughter had an education, and I was not easy. And she pulled me kicking and screaming through every horrible thing that I did, and was just really more than anything, my mom,” Hemmick-Murphy said.
“And she was pretty much just the best mom ever. I’m sure plenty of people feel that way. But, she was the best mom ever.”
Geraldine Hemmick’s memorial service will take place at Hummel Funeral Home (3475 Copley Road, Copley). There will be a celebration of her life from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Annabell’s Bar & Lounge. 784 W. Market St.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.
Geraldine Jeri’ Hemmick, co-founder of Highland Square mainstay Annabell’s, dies at 95
Geraldine “Jeri” Hemmick was a “go-go girl.”