The end of an era came for the Chicago painting and decorating industry on
January 14th with a festive retirement dinner held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare
Hotel to celebrate the life and work of Gerald C. (Jerry) Harms.
Jerry's long and faithful service to Painters' District Council No. 14 as
Secretary-Treasurer and Business Manager was heralded with a capacity attendance
of over 700 guests, drawn from all sides of the Chicago construction industry,
including contractors, vendors, and Union officials from every building trade.
It was a grand affair, made notable by many reminiscences from his colleagues at
PDC14, from his management associates, dignitaries from the International Union
of Painters and Allied Trades, officials from the Chicago Building Trades, and
Jerry was born on September 23, 1942, in Evanston. He went to grade and high school
in both Chicago and Evanston. When his grandparents went to live in Sweden, he
followed them in August, 1960. At his grandfather's urging, he signed up there for
the Painting Apprenticeship Program in Linkoeping, Sweden, serving his apprenticeship
there until the Spring of 1962...at which time he returned to the USA.
In fall of 1962, he volunteered to join the U.S. Army. Following stateside training,
for most of his military career he was stationed in Buedingen, Germany. There, he met
his wife, Elke. They were married in Germany, and, in July of 1965, they returned to
the States following Jerry's discharge from the Army.
Jerry and Elke settled down to family life in Chicago, and, over the next few years,
had three children...Michael, Cheryl and Susan. The family moved to Northbrook in 1973.
Since 1995, they have been blessed with sons-in-law Steven and Matthew, and eight
grandchildren ranging from one to eight years old.
Jerry's illustrious career with PDC14 commenced when Julius Skogland, Business Agent
for Painters Local 194, assisted him in joining Local #194 and getting his first job
as a painter with Charles Decorating. As the years went by, Jerry would work for Lindy
Decorating, Walter Ingstrup Company, Ragner Decorating, the Blackstone Hotel, the O'Hare
Hilton Hotel, Mission Hills Development, and Crown Decorating.
Due to Mr. Skogland's assistance, Jerry started attending Local #194 meetings. In 1970,
he became a Trustee in Local #194. Over the years, he also served his Local as a Delegate
to PDC14, Vice President, President, Delegate to Painters General Convention, Delegate to
AFL-CIO Convention and as Delegate to Painters State Conferences.
Jerry was appointed to become a Business Agent in August of 1980 and was elected to that
post in 1983. In June of 1989, he was elected to become the Secretary-Treasurer of
Chicago Painters District Council #14, serving in that capacity until his retirement.
During his tenure, he was elected to Vice President of the Painters State Conference,
Vice President of the State AFL-CIO Executive Board, and served as Trustee and Vice
President of the Chicago Building Trades Council.
Jerry was also appointed to be an Executive Board Member of The Chicago Federation of
Labor and served for years on the International Painters President's Advisory Committee.
When the City of Chicago closed Washburne Trade School, Jerry led the way to purchase
a JATC building in Berkeley and establish a state-of-the-art apprenticeship facility
and program for painters and tapers.
During his years as the Business Manager and Secretary-Treasurer of PDC14, Jerry worked
tirelessly to improve the wages, pension and welfare benefits for his painters. During
his time, the Labor-Management relationship evolved to one of mutual respect and
working together to achieve the greater good of the employees and the industry as a
Together with the contractors, he was able to establish a College Scholarship Fund for
the children of painters and tapers which, since 1991, has awarded scholarships to
promising students in the amount of $1,045,525.
Looking back over such a distinguished career, Jerry can take great satisfaction in his
many accomplishments, as well as countless friendships that were forged during that time.
We wish him the very best in retirement.