Jerald “Jerry” Huntsinger

August 6, 2023

July 25, 1933- August 6, 2023, Jerry Huntsinger, 90, a nationally recognized expert on communications and fundraising for many of the household names among American charities, passed away August 6, 2023 in the Hadley House Hospice Unit at Windsor Meade Retirement CommunityHh in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Author of several classic books on marketing and fundraising, he was also mentor to generations of young fundraisers. The New York Times summed up his skill: “Most Americans have never heard of Jerry Huntsinger, but they have probably heard from him. Mr. Huntsinger is a direct mail fundraiser, one of the best in the business.”

Jerry Huntsinger was born on July 25, 1933 in Salina, Kansas, son of the late Edwin Earl Huntsinger and Mary Johnson Huntsinger. Jerry had one sister, the late Leila Huntsinger.

He went on to receive a B.A. in English Literature from Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. His graduate degrees include a Masters in Philosophy from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky and a Masters in Mass Communications from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1962, Jerry joined the staff of the then Christian Children’s Fund, now ChildFund International in Richmond, Virginia where he traveled to the Fund’s missions in Africa and employed his communications and marketing skills to alert the public to the plight of orphans and raise funds for what became one of the nation’s largest child sponsorship programs. In 1964, he co-founded Huntsinger & Jeffer, the Richmond, Va. advertising and fundraising firm, and was an early pioneer in direct mail fundraising for nonprofit organizations. After selling his interest in that firm he became Senior Creative Consultant for Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company in Falls Church, VA., where he worked on programs for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International, the ACLU and Common Cause.

To minimize what he called “the boredom level from my day job” he built and flew radio-controlled airplanes with his sons and grandson and worked with a London based producer of video games to create theme music and background sounds, as well as often employing his skill on the keyboard to entertain residents of senior centers and nursing homes in the Richmond area.

Over his long and active 61-year professional career he wrote fundraising letters signed by Presidents Reagan, Carter and Clinton, politicians such as Albert Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and celebrities such as the late Christopher Reeve, Frank Sinatra and Joanne Woodward, and many, many others. He created marketing campaigns for companies and organizations as diverse as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, American Express, Kemper Insurance, Day’s Inn, Ford’s Colony, Virginia Peanuts, Peale Center for Positive Thinking, Crestar Bank, Habitat for Humanity, The Humane Society of the United States, National Wildlife Federation, Handgun Control, Amnesty International, Environmental Defense, Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Town, the American Red Cross, Consumers Report, and dozens of others, both commercial and charities.

Often called the “Dean” of direct mail fundraising, his creative work, campaigns and marketing innovations have received awards from public relations societies, film festivals, national advertising agencies, and the Professional Achievement Award from the Non-Profit Council of the Direct Marketing Association.

Jerry and Esther, lived for a while on the shores of the North Carolina Outer Banks.  One of Jerry’s favorite times of day would be going out on the deck nightly to watch the sunset across the water.  He would say you could almost hear it ‘hiss’ when it appeared to touch the waters’ surface.  They enjoyed taking cruises and family vacations together and spending time with their large family.

Jerry is survived by his loving wife, Esther Shields Huntsinger and their beloved pup “Missy”, his sons, Randall Earl Huntsinger (Karla) from Iowa, and Kenton Emerson Huntsinger Sr (Deborah) of Ashland, VA;  3 Grandchildren and 4 Great-Grandchildren.  He is also survived by his 4 step-children, Sheree L Fox (Tommy) of Williamsburg, Donald R Forman (Teresa), and David K Forman of Yorktown, VA; and Susan E Rhew (Ray) of Kill Devil Hills, NC.; 9 Grandchildren and 16 Great-Grandchildren.

A “Celebration of Life” will be held for Jerry in the Kensington Room at Windsor Meade Retirement Community in Williamsburg at 1:00pm on Friday, August 11, 2023.

Expressions of condolence may be made by donations to the American Cancer Society or the Windsor Meade Hadley House Hospice Unit.

Celebration of Life

Friday, August 11, 2023
1:00 PM

Windsor Meade of Williamsburg - Directions
3900 Windsor Hall Drive
Williamsburg, VA 23185

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  • August 22, 2023
    Gentiva Hospice says:
    It was our honor to support you through this difficult time. - Gentiva Hospice

  • August 19, 2023
    JoAnne Newman says:
    Jerry was also an avid gardener! Visiting the Huntsingers in Ashland was also a lesson in horticulture. He threw his whole self into his pastimes and that was far more than most of us mere mortals could ever do! My husband, Randy and I have many fond and amusing memories to keep Jerry alive in our hearts. I will never forget my frustration at a former boss, who was quite critical of a fund raising letter I wrote (I was Development Director for a hospital). I thought it was pretty good, so I emailed Jerry for an opinion. His response was a photo of himself, dressed like a mad biker with a chainsaw in his hand. The title was: This is what I think of your boss! I was trying to find that picture! Should have printed it out! Deepest sympathy to all. JoAnne Newman

  • August 11, 2023
    Niece posted an image:
    Jerry and Gwen Huntsinger
    Jerry and Gwen Huntsinger

  • August 09, 2023
    Gary & Patti Alderman says:
    We are so sorry to hear of Jerry’s passing. An extraordinary human being with an extraordinary life! Hugs to all the family…