On November 26, 2015, the industry lost one of its great contributors. Jerry Gordon, co-owner with his wife Karen, of J. Gordon Designs in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, past president of Cosmetologists Chicago, past vice-president of Intercoiffure America/Canada, business leader and educator, died suddenly in his home at age 78.

"He died at home from complications of COPD," his wife Karen shared with the industry on Facebook. "He had a wonderful last day of life on this Earth. His spirit will live on in everyone who ever had the opportunity to meet this most intelligent, engaging and compassionate man."

A hairdresser for more than 60 years, Gordon continued to work at his J. Gordon Designs salon until the day before his passing. “I’ll never retire,” he often said. “I love this business and I love everyone I come in contact with every day.”

Gordon was a proud third-generation hairdresser: his grandmother was a wigmaker, his mother a cosmetologist. His son Tony owns several salons in the Chicago suburbs, daughter Kathrine is an  Oscar-winning hairdresser for films, and daughter Elizabeth operates a small business in Los Angeles.

As the first recipient of Aveda's Master of the Arts Award, and the Intercoiffure Order of the Chevalier Medal, Gordon was also an in-demand speaker for his expertise in salon operations, well known for developing the system of “Double Shifting” for salons.

“Jerry taught us all so very much,” says Paul Dykstra, CEO of Cosmetologists Chicago. “He taught us about the beauty business and how to be successful in it. But most of all, he taught us how to live a full life and enjoy everything this industry enables us to become.”

This past year, Cosmetologists Chicago created the Jerry Gordon Salon Leadership Award, and it will be awarded each year at America's Beauty Show in Chicago.

"He was the light of my life," Karen continued on Facebook. "We grieve, but we also honor Jerry's wishes to live life well, to practice what we are passionate about, and to continue to make people beautiful. Jerry's legacy will live on."

MODERN SALON will continue to update this piece to serve as a tribute to Jerry Gordon--please feel free to send your memories and comments to Editor in Chief Alison Alhamed, aalhamed@modernsalon.com.

Additional memorials and commemorations are being planned. Gordon requested that any donations in his memory be made to his favorite charity, Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. 10175 Wheeler Rd., Central Point, OR 97502.



Jerry Gordon was constantly creating, teaching and giving back to the professional beauty community he loved throughout his career. He was proud to make a good living doing hair and wanted other salon owners and stylists to prosper as well.  To ensure Gordon’s inspirational messages and practical salon business wisdom keep reaching and influencing beauty professionals, his wife and salon partner Karen Gordon is making two special video sessions featuring Jerry Gordon available for download. “History & Economics” is available for purchase at ShopModernSalon.com, with proceeds benefiting the presentation of the Intercoiffure America/Canada Artistic Team at the World Congress in Shanghai. As a thank you gift, purchasers will also receive Gordon’s “How to Use Money” video session. Click here for more details.


Also, for more info on Jerry Gordon’s life and legacy, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Tribune column by Pulitzer Prize winning writer and Gordon client Mary Schmich

Chicago Tribune obituary of Jerry Gordon

"Jerry was on the CC board prior to my arrival, he became my mentor and showed me how to navigate the position. Jerry and I became closely aligned and I had a great respect for his passion and dedication to our business. We became friends and had conversations about any subject you could think of. His zest for life is an inspiration. When Jerry's official time on the board was up, I asked him to stay and created a new position, "Consigliere." He loved the title. I am honored to now hold that title and to have been the first recipient of The Jerry Gordon Business Leader Award. It was a privilege to know Jerry as well as I did, albeit all too short. Jerry, you will be missed by all." --Frank Gironda,  President Emeritus, Cosmetologists Chicago Consigliere


"There were so many things that made Jerry Gordon truly unique. He was a brilliant businessman, a racing champion, a thinker and philosopher, an artistic and creative force, an educator and an advocate for the entire beauty community. But what I will remember most--and what made him most special in my eyes--was the passion he brought to everything he did and the joy he found in the world and people around him. In that, he epitomized not only the best of our industry, but the best in each of us. Jerry meant so much to so many: Karen and his family, the good friends he made over the years, the people he mentored and all the lives he touched through his many activities. I was proud and privileged to know Jerry and call him a friend. And I will miss him deeply. --Steve Reiss, Publisher, MODERN SALON Media


"Anyone who met Jerry Gordon realized he was someone who was very passionate about life. He loved his craft and believed this is the best industry to be able to achieve your dreams. He raised the bar to be an example for all of us of what could be achieved. We will miss him dearly but Jerry's spirit will continue to live on in all of us." --Denise Provenzano, President of Cosmetologists Chicago


"From a master technician, an educator with tremendous passion and an influential business pioneer, Jerry Gordon not only had success as an individual but helped countless others achieve their successes as well. Jerry, a broad thinker with a sharp wit, has influenced many of us and his guidance will be missed." --Joseph Cartagena, current Past-President of Cosmetologists Chicago


"Jerry always filled a room. A charismatic man who really cared about the integrity of beauty professionals. He spoke so passionate about any topic. I was honored to call Jerry my friend. We will miss him greatly." --Larry Silvestri, COO, Mario Tricoci Salons & Spas and 1st VP of Cosmetologists Chicago


"The respect earned and due this amazing man are enormous. To have had Jerry as a friend may have been no major feat, as he was a friend/mentor to many. Nevertheless, I have always felt as though my friendship with Jerry was special (such was the charm and gift of his), that his attention was solely on me, my business, my family, opinions and concerns--and it always was. When faced with seemingly daunting challenges in our business, it is Jerry to whom Billy and I would first turn. Regardless of his schedule (and he was always slammed at work!), Jerry would run to the phone to coach us, guide us and encourage us with his unmistakable intelligence and caustic wit. Jerry was the favorite brother/uncle/friend that you always wanted in your corner. I grieve selfishly for the loss of this beautiful, intelligent, hilarious, talented, loving, wise, insightful, amazing man. Billy and I will be forever grateful to have known him." --Melissa Chambers Yamaguchi, salon and spa owner, award-winning business leader 


"I was blessed to have Jerry and Karen share both their home and life-long learning approach. Not just in hairdressing. Jerry also gave me the honor, recently, to film him and his views on life. He shared his passion for learning with colorful stories that will demonstrate how devoted Jerry was about the craft, and a true philosopher on life who helped guide a generation." --Jamie Carroll, educator, speaker


"Having been friends with this legend for the best part of 20 years, I am truly am saddened to lose my mentor and best friend. I will miss the weekly, if not daily, conversations I had with my friend--there is now a new quiet in my life. I will forever cherish my time with Jerry. He was my Obi-won, and it was an honor to be welcomed into his life, his family and friends. He lived life to the fullest and will always be my hero. I will do my best to continue his legacy teaching the future of our industry about the man that inspired generations of hairdressers. Jerry, I love you, you were an American icon, may you now rest in peace." --Nick Arrojo, educator, stylist, founder Arrojo Studios and Arrojo Education


"Over the years, Jerry sat in on many of my classes. I could always feel his presence because I knew Jerry was listening and processing everything I said. Because Jerry was a lifelong student of business and leadership, I knew if he had anything to say about my presentation, he would be right there in front of me to give me his take on the topic. Simply put, Jerry kept you on your game just by being there. If you're a speaker in the salon industry, it was a right of passage to receive a Jerry Gordon critique following your presentations. And if you were smart, you listened. On the most deeply personal and professional level, every time Jerry gave me a thumbs up, a favorable nod, or a passionate dissertation that my presentation was on the mark, it felt totally awesome. I will deeply miss Jerry and his passion for the industry." --Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO, Strategies


"Jerry and I worked and played together for at least 40 years. From photoshoots for MODERN SALON and Helene Curtis, to dinners with great wines and long conversations, being with Jerry was always a good time. He loved to learn something new and teach it to any and everyone who would listen, especially if it was about money and how to make it. He loved to laugh. He loved his friends. And we all loved him." --Vi Nelson, Vi Nelson & Associates

"Jerry Gordon was such a generous spirit and savvy salon owner. He always took time to respond to any request from Modern Salon and Salon Today editors, to help encourage and coach other salon owners and stylists. I will miss him personally. He helped me a lot over the years. As neighbors in Chicago, he took me to lunch a number of times, just the two of us, especially right after MODERN acquired Salon Today. He helped us understand the mindset and passion of salon owners who wanted to manage and grow their salon wisely, and how to truly foster a respect for the business side of beauty. I was a client of his J. Gordon Designs salon for years after beginning at MODERN, right when his son Tony--now a salon owner and consistent SALON TODAY 200 honoree--was just beginning to learn the salon craft, as an assistant. It was a living laboratory of smart salon business. Jerry and his wife Karen and son Tony have always been so kind and supportive to all of us at MODERN. We will miss him."--Michele Musgrove, Associate Publisher & Editorial Director, MODERN SALON Media

"A great man--I loved listening to him when Horst brought him to speak to us about business at Aveda. And he always remembered me and made a point to say "hello" whenever he saw me at hair shows, and was kind in giving me encouragement in my career. I'll remember him fondly." --Charlie Price, educator, award-winning session stylist, Scruples International Creative Consultant


"He really stood out to me when the Aveda Institute of Chicago took my cosmetology class on salon tours throughout the city. His passion and enthusiasm were apparent, and you couldn't help but be in a good mood after he spoke. My class and I left his salon very inspired!" --Carley Martin, Celebrity Hair Stylist/ Makeup Artist, Factor Artists.



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