“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” —James M. Barrie
After a year-long battle with lung cancer, renowned Atlanta Realtor Jerrilyn Levetan, 64, succumbed to complications of that disease May 6, 2019.
A native Atlantan, born Nov. 11, 1954, Jerrilyn loved her city and knew every inch of it well. She collected clients in her real estate business and kept them as friends. She was trained as a specialist in the real estate needs of seniors and had a passion for finding starter homes for young folks. As such, she was known for serving clients from two and three generations of the same family. Her clients came from all sides of the city with homes in nearly every neighborhood.
A trip to any restaurant in town with Jerrilyn was a chance to watch her work the room, stopping to meet the many friends and business associates she would inevitably find there. Her acquaintances included everyone from the owner to her favorites among the wait staff whose families she would inquire after. She was an enthusiastic participant in every festival, march, run, bike ride, lantern walk, chili cook-off and fireworks event the city had to offer.
Jerrilyn was always up for any adventure and loved to travel, visiting places as varied as Alaska and Morocco, as far flung as Peru and Hawaii. “Who else but Jerrilyn would put up her hand and say, ‘I’ll go,’” said dear friend Debra Snell, who offered a trip to Miami in the back of an open air tour bus with a friend about to ship the bus to St. Croix for a zipline business. Selfies from that trip amused Jerrilyn’s many Facebook followers.
Jerrilyn took her beloved wife Linda Lazzari (Bhadra Kali) to Hawaii for her 60th birthday. There the pair stayed in tree houses and loved absorbing the special climate, flora and fauna of the islands. For her own 60th – a destination birthday – she gathered friends at the Fryemont Inn in North Carolina.
Even during the past year as she struggled with cancer treatment, zapped energy and strength, Jerrilyn continued ticking off items on her bucket list. She insisted that Linda and a few close friends accompany her on a trip to CHICAGO (she said the city’s name as if it were written in capital letters). She gritted her teeth through fatigue and wobbly walking to get to the riverboat architecture tour, Italian food, hot dogs, pizza and the comedy show she had listed as the “must-dos” of that town. In the last few days of her life, the mere mention of CHICAGO would bring out her signature grin.
One of the most central parts of Jerrilyn’s life was her volunteer work, which she did quietly and with intense focus. Serving for several years on the board of Synchronicity Theatre, she was particularly taken with the theater’s Playmaking for Girls program in which girls at risk in various ways are brought together in teams to compose and perform plays about their lives. Jerrilyn introduced hundreds of friends and associates to Synchronicity, many of whom became supporters in their own right.
Her other passion was seniors. Every Monday, she delivered Meals on Wheels to a group of folks she called her “peeps,” often reaching out to help solve problems in their lives beyond food. She worked with Senior Connections as a board member and volunteer up to the start of her illness, after which time she could no longer drive her route.
Jerrilyn also took her remarkable dog Little Bit to hospitals and nursing homes, working with Happy Tails Pet Therapy to bring smiles to people as they petted Bit and threw a ball she would fetch endlessly. Jerrilyn also volunteered with the Dekalb Rape Crisis Center hotline.
No one stayed a stranger long in Jerrilyn’s presence.
In 1996, Jerrilyn became involved with the love of her life, her wife Linda. Their relationship was primary in her life. They were finally able to marry at Emory University Hospital on April 23, 2018, during the first frightening week of Jerrilyn’s illness. Jerrilyn’s aunt, Liane Levetan, former state senator and CEO of Dekalb County, and dear friend Susan Wells moved heaven and earth to get the couple a marriage license at the hospital. The wedding took place in a conference room on the intensive care floor, with Swami Jaya Devi of Kashi Atlanta and beloved honorary niece, Callan Wells, officiating.
Linda has spent the past year tirelessly and lovingly caring for Jerrilyn.
Jerrilyn was lucky to share her city with many relatives, who she’d call on regularly. Her brother Steve Levetan said, “When thinking of my sister, there are three descriptors that stand out: strength, independence and fun-loving. The strength to overcome many difficult times throughout her life, including the strength to prove a hospital full of doctors to be wrong — surviving to celebrate her one-year anniversary with her loving wife Linda. The independence, since childhood, to always do her own thing — and do it well. And always with an emphasis on having fun, whether traveling abroad, paddling a local river, or hanging out at her mountain cabin. All traits I will always admire and try to emulate.”
Her aunt Liane Levetan said of Jerrilyn, “She was more than a niece to me; she was like one of my daughters, always here for me. She was such an optimistic, fun loving individual. Everyone who knew her loved her enthusiasm, kindness and love of life. When she entered the room, it filled with laughter and sunshine.”
“I have never known anyone with such a thirst for life. Such a joy in life.” That’s how Jerrilyn’s dearest friend and longtime business partner Ronnie Preuss described her. Jerrilyn “was kind and always there for all those she loved and those in need. She never made it about herself.”
Jerrilyn was predeceased by her parents, Abraham and Gertrude (Abe and Cookie) Levetan. In addition to her wife Linda and brother Steve, Jerrilyn is survived by her sister-in-law Janice, nephew Joshua (Lauren) and their two children; her aunts, Liane Levetan, Barbara (Bobbie) Zeidman, and Corinne Frank, Uncle Robert (Bob) Levetan, as well as many cousins and friends too numerous to count.
Also surviving are Linda’s family members in New York, Florida and Ohio, including nephew Bradford Nelson, nieces Alexa and Julia Nelson, and mother-in-law Florence Lazzari.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Synchronicity Theatre Playmaking for Girls in honor of Jerrilyn Levetan.
From Synchronicity Theatre about the Jerrilyn Levetan Fund:
During the eight years of Jerrilyn Levetan’s involvement with Synchronicity Theatre, she became passionate about the work this local theater company does with at-risk and refugee girls in Atlanta through the Playmaking for Girls program. Her love for this unique program inspired and elevated Synchronicity’s work during her tenure as a board member of the organization.
In honor of her extraordinary service and life, Jerrilyn’s family has established the Jerrilyn Levetan Fund, to endow Playmaking for Girls participants during the summer program each year. During the program, each girl signs a contract and is paid $100 for her work as an actor, which empowers the girls to value their time and teaches real-world skills and responsibility. Each dollar raised by the fund will be used to pay each of the girls during the program, and they each will receive a letter with their pay every year with Jerrilyn’s story and photo.
To make a gift in honor of Jerrilyn and the work she loved so dearly, contact Synchronicity at 404-484-8636 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also make a check out to Synchronicity Theatre with The Jerrilyn Levetan Fund in the memo line and send to 1545 Peachtree St. NE, Suite 102, Atlanta, 30309.