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The community of Waddy is not alone in mourning the passing of man who was active in so many humanitarian endeavors all across Shelby County.
Luther “Waddy” Jesse, 86, died Thursday after a lifetime of service to the county, involved in everything from teaching Sunday school and home visits for First Baptist Church, to serving on numerous committees and volunteering for the Henderson House.
Duanne Puckett is one of many people who had known Jesse and his late wife, Zena, for many years through the First Baptist Church, where he had been a deacon and Sunday school teacher.
“He never missed a chance to give me a hard time,” Puckett said. “Especially after I switched to Centenary Methodist; Waddy loved acting like the Baptist steeple would fall in whenever I visited.”
Tony Carriss, magistrate in District 6, which encompasses Waddy said that Jesse is known all over the county for his selfless kindness and devotion to the community.
“I have known most of the Jesse family for many years,” he said. “They have been wonderful community and business leaders. They always stepped up to help others. Waddy will be missed by all of us.”
Tim Rucker, an employee of Bumper to Bumper on Washington Street, a business that was originally was established by Jesse 55 years ago, said he always looked up to Jesse.
“I’ve known Waddy all my life, he was a great guy,” he said. “As a kid, mom and dad would set me up on his counter, I’ll never forget that.”
When asked why everybody called Jesse “Waddy,” Rucker chuckled fondly.
“Well, because that’s where he was born and raised and everybody knew him,” he said.
Jesse,son of Atha McCormack and E.G. Jesse Sr., is survived by three daughters, Diane Yeager, Martha J. Lawson and Susan B. Jesse, all of Shelbyville, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was former owner of Shelbyville Auto Supply and a former member of Shelbyville Board of Education. He was an avid University of Kentucky fan and a member of the Dairy Queen Coffee Club.
Puckett said Jesse was a loyal person and when he gave his heart it was completely; and that showed through in his dedication to the University of Kentucky basketball program.
She said that though his health had deteriorated since last fall that did not keep him following his team, even when he was in the hospital.
“Yet that did not keep him from watching his beloved UK Wildcats – even on those tiny television sets in the hospital room, surrounded by his daughters, Diane, Martha and Susan,” Puckett said. “Their postings on Facebook constantly had the cheer ‘Win One for Waddy’ whenever Kentucky was playing basketball. Photos often showed every one of them wearing blue or holding up signs.”
Puckett also acknowledged Jesse’s long-time role as a local businessman.
“It was ironic that Waddy died the evening of April 17 and that the newspaper’s April 18 Looking Back column mentioned that Waddy Jesse had opened his business, Shelbyville Auto Supply, 55 years ago.”
Puckett said that Jesse was so loved that when he was hospitalized while UK was playing in the Elite Eight of this year’s NCAA tournament, she asked UK official Linda Carmack if she would send him a get-well card to the ‘Cats’ biggest fan.
““She did more than that: Waddy had the best medicine ever when the mailman delivered – in time for the Final Four – a photo of John Calipari autographed ‘TO WADDY’ with the coach's signature,” she said. “The photo was immediately framed and hung where he could see it. It even moved from one position to another so each daughter had a chance to ‘sit with the coach’ during games as well. The photo’s position this week was at the foot of Waddy’s coffin. He’s smiling in Heaven for sure!”