Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry presented community leader and advocate Jerry Vandeveer with a “Key to the Fort” award at a ceremony at the Law Enforcement/ Firefighters Memorial on Wells Street. Family, friends, neighborhood leaders, elected officials, and public safety personnel attended the event.
The Key to the Fort goes to individuals who’ve made an extraordinary commitment to the community through a lifetime of stewardship and involvement. The Key is a hand forged replica of the iron key that was at the Fort in the days of Anthony Wayne, circa 1790. The original key is at the History Center. The key, with its highly unusual tumbler structure, came to the History Center from an early 20th Century donation from the family of Mayor Franklin Randall, who was Fort Wayne’s mayor during the Civil War.
“Jerry is an unsung hero in our community, and I’m honored to recognize him for all that he has done and continues to do to help make Fort Wayne the best city possible,” said Mayor Henry. “Jerry’s positive attitude, work ethic, humility, and genuine care for others are characteristics to be emulated.”
Vandeveer is the fifth Fort Wayne resident to receive a Key to the Fort. The other recipients were the late Charles Redd, a former City Council member and community activist; the late Jane Avery of Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana; the late Bob Chase, legendary Fort Wayne Komets broadcaster; and Belinda Lewis, former director of Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.
Jerry is a recognized community and neighborhood advocate in Fort Wayne. He is always giving back and putting others first. Highlights include billboards displaying positive messages about the importance of health screenings and the work being performed by local public safety departments. Jerry and his late wife Linda made investments in downtown through their former business, The Wood Shack (1973-2018), helped lead efforts to reduce crime in the Baker Street and Fairfield Avenue area, and built the Police Memorial Garden at the corner of Baker and Fairfield in 2000. In addition, Jerry oversaw the construction of the Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial on Wells Street and continues to oversee the Memorial to this day.
Jerry and Linda are the recipients of several awards, including the Sagamore of the Wabash in 2016.