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October 21, 2021

A Tribute to Jerry Stratton, Alliance Group

A pioneering independent distribution partner , “He was always looking forward”.

As an independent Managing General Agent (MGA) he was a key principal in execution of our independent distribution strategy. Jerry brought extensive experience, a strategic mind and love for the industry and National Life. He was an icon in our industry and lived his passion every single day.

Jerry built personal relationships with that same passion. David Gilmore, who partnered with Jerry for more than 20 years as a VP of independent distribution recalls a three-day road trip in Jerry’s car around northern Alabama: “when we weren’t in meetings, all we were doing was talking about the life insurance business. We never talked about anything else. Six, seven hours a day it was all about the business and what he was planning to do.

“One of the most amazing things about Jerry was that, even though he had been in this business so long, he always was looking forward. He was always looking for the next big opportunity. How can we do more for the people we work with?” As an insurance practitioner with a curious mind, he was always looking to elevate his performance to the next level and compete with the best in the business.

As a strategic thinker Jerry realized that the next wave of customers would be younger people, so naturally he recruited younger talent and mentored them to learn and love the business as he did. As an entrepreneur at age 70, based on advice from Mehran he became partner to the Alliance Group by buying out one of the partners. That decision at that time clearly points to his courage, conviction and love of the profession.

The memorable first interaction between Jerry and Mehran happened in 2004, in St. Kitts when Mehran was interim COO. It was not so casual. Jerry’s message to Mehran was, “I really don’t like you because you replaced my friend.” Mehran responded with, “I didn’t replace him, your friend left us.” Jerry said that he understood. Six months later as Mehran recalls, “Jerry saw me at an MGA meeting and said, ‘I want to finish our previous conversation. While my friend started this journey, I believe you have the right vision for the future of independent distribution at National Life… so, don’t screw it up. You’ve got my support, you’ve got my confidence, and I’m going to do everything possible to be part of the success story of the company.”

Jerry’s vision and leadership at the Alliance Group changed the company culture and helped bring remarkable growth to the agency. It always came back to personal relationships. “There wasn’t a time that we couldn’t pick up the phone and call each other and talk about things that were going on,” said David. “He loved this company and he loved the people in this company.”

“National Life has been built one piece at a time,” said Mehran, “and Jerry was a critical part of that. He was a man of character, honor and a strategic thinker who believed in dreaming, planning, executing and making good on his promises. And that’s what it’s all about. We love you Jerry and we will miss you.”

Please read Jerry’s full obituary below and here.

Mr. Gerald L. Stratton, 83

Mr. Gerald (Jerry) L. Stratton, 83, of Flowery Branch, passed away Friday, October 8, 2021 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton Campus.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 14, 2021 at The Main Sanctuary of Free Chapel Worship Center on Mc Ever in Gainesville. Rev. Jentezen Franklin will officiate. Interment will follow at Memorial Park South Cemetery. The family will receive friends in the sanctuary at Free Chapel from 10:00 a.m. until 10:45 a.m. on Thursday.

Born on March 6, 1938 in Hettick, Illinois, he was the son of the late Wyman R. “Russell” and Doris A. (Clevenger) Stratton. Mr. Stratton graduated college with a Master’s in Business. He was the Chairman of Alliance Group and CEO of Living Benefits Solutions.

Mr. Stratton was a proud veteran of the United States Air Force, and a dedicated member of Free Chapel Worship Center.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Stratton is preceded in death by his sister, Bettie Jean Stratton, and his first wife, Sharon (Woolley) Stratton.

Mr. Stratton is survived by his wife, Molly Davis Stratton of Flowery Branch; daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Walter Willis of Braselton; daughter and son-in-law, June and Paul Hembling of Pearland, TX; son and daughter-in-law, Jonathan and Amy Stratton of Sheffield, AL; stepson, Michael Chetham; grandchildren, Morgan and Kyle Cousino; 2nd Lt. USAF Eric Hembling; sister, Donna Whitt; as well as nieces, Kimberly Cline and Tish Mallicoat.

Gerald was an entrepreneur from the age of 7 when he suggested to the local dime store owner that his shelves were in need of a good dusting and he could help him out with that after school for ten cents a week. Jerry stayed steadily employed and upwardly mobile from that time on.

He never lost the thrill of building a business into something better, bigger, and more profitable than people ever imagined. Yet, he never passed up an opportunity to share with people in need, young entrepreneurs, and family. He loved mentoring, donating to, and investing in people of all walks of life. He was ever an optimist who continually believed that the best is yet to come. He viewed discouraging events as mere bumps on the road to success. With his heartfelt encouragement and mentoring skills he found his greatest satisfaction was building organizations of people, coaching them to reach their full potential.

As a parent, brother, and grandparent, he was no less of a life coach and encourager; teaching family the time-honored methods of setting goals, and making 1, 3, 5 and 10 years plans to reach them. He also modeled resilience and the value of having a plan B when you encounter setbacks along the way. He was not unacquainted with setbacks and failures; but he never defined himself by them. Likewise, he never judged others by their failures; but instead valued their persistence. In times of crisis he often told people, “You are not alone. You will get through this. We will get this done. I can help with that.” From boyhood, he creatively found ways to assist others in need.

He loved history and reading biographies, specifically World War II history books. That generation was one he admired for their optimism, hard work and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds.

A member of various baseball, basketball, and football teams throughout his youth, he also played football for Augustana College prior to entering the Air Force. He continued to work out almost every morning for the rest of his life, priding himself on reaching fitness goals as much as business goals.

His strength and optimism served him well when faced with a diagnosis of Lymphoma. Enduring much over the next few years, he reached his goal of having zero lymphoma markers and freedom from treatment in early 2020. On both good and bad days, he woke up joyfully looking forward to going to his office; meeting the next goal; earning the next bonus; booking his next trip to some foreign shore; and chatting with the people on his team about their lives and adventures.

After work, he enjoyed returning to his comfortably elegant home and his loving wife, Molly. With Molly he found refuge. They frequently enjoyed going out to dinner (often joined by friends and family) and taking quick trips to their mountain home on weekends. There were many quiet weekends at home with Molly, just watching a ball game on TV or spending time reading.

Jerry loved his family unconditionally. He enjoyed his children, grandchildren, and cousins. He doted on his sister, Donna, making sure her every need was met, supporting her in reaching her goals and dreams, and including her on many trips with himself and Molly to distant locations. Jerry provided a safety net, a place to fall when life beat you up or dreams crashed and burned. He inspired you to pick yourself up, dust off your problems, and start over again.

His death has created a void in our lives. Yet, for people of faith, like his mournful family, his advice still holds true: the best is yet to come, and Jerry has gone before us to that place.

Memorial gifts may be made to MD Anderson Cancer Center of Houston, TX.
Arrangements in care of Memorial Park Funeral Home, 2030 Memorial Park Road, Gainesville, GA 30504.
Send online condolences to www.memorialparkfuneralhomes.com