Jerry Traylor, motivational speaker and author, dies in Arizona

Photo by Debbie Richards Jerry Traylor speaks to children at Ellenboro Elementary School in Ritchie County in 2011, during a week-long tour sponsored by WVU-Parkersburg.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jerry Traylor, motivational speaker, author and an inspiration to many for his determination in overcoming physical challenges, died Sunday in a Phoenix Hospice center.

Traylor, 63, was diagnosed a year ago with cancer. He fought his cancer up to the end with his signature sense of humor, positive outlook and determination.

Information on Traylor’s death was provided by his sister Debra Traylor of Phoenix.

Traylor worked at the Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg from 1980-86. After moving from Parkersburg, he would return to the Parkersburg area to speak in schools and to community groups. His last visit here was in 2015.

A celebration of Traylor’s life will be at 10 a.m. July 14 — his birthday — at the Shepherd of the Hills Church in Fountain Hills, Ariz. Traylor lived in Fountain Hills for several years.

Photo by Debbie Richards Jerry Traylor speaks in the West Virginia University at Parkersburg theater in 2011.

Traylor, who was born with cerebral palsy in McCook, Neb., climbed the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak and ran across America on crutches. He competed in 35 marathons.

Debra Traylor said her brother had a positive influence on many people.

When word circulated about Jerry’s serious medical condition, cards “rolled in” from people who had been moved by Jerry’s message of hope and determination, Debra said.

A woman who had attended a camp Traylor spoke at drove from Salt Lake City, Utah, to visit Traylor in the Arizona Hospice center, Debra said.

Traylor enjoyed speaking at Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) conferences and camps, Debra said. He was still looking forward to talking to youth at these camps right up until the end of his life, she said.

Bill Wotring of Parkersburg, retired local school principal, said he met Traylor around 1983. A teacher told Wotring, who was principal at Stone Elementary School in Belpre, that Traylor wanted to do some public speaking.

“He did an excellent job. The kids liked him,” Wotring said of Traylor’s talk at Stone School. Traylor returned to Stone and other schools to speak after Wotring contacted the principals.

Traylor spoke in schools, hospitals, civic clubs, churches, corporate meetings, anywhere he was invited, Wotring said. Traylor enjoyed talking to anyone who needed a word of encouragement, said Wotring.

“Jerry was always positive,” said Wotring, who hopes to write a book someday about his good friend Traylor, who cared about people.

Traylor wrote a book, “Live CAREfully: The Importance of Caring in a Life of Significance,” which was published in 2005.

Traylor was determined to attend his daughter Sarah’s graduation with a master’s degree in May from Washington University in St. Louis. When Traylor’s health made this trip impossible, Sarah Traylor returned to Arizona for a “mini-graduation” in her father’s hospital room shortly before the regular graduation, Debra Traylor said.

“One of Jerry’s last requests was to thank everyone who had ever helped him in any way for their caring kindness,” said Wotring, who visited Traylor in Arizona in February.


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