Jerry Morris was the picture of health. Extremely muscular, he had hardly an ounce of body fat. He had a regular spot on a church basketball team and got lots of exercise chasing after his three children, ages 11, 8 and 5.
It was Jerry’s many years in the steel business, however, that truly gave him his uncommon strength. He would routinely carry on his shoulders steel bars that weighed more than twice as much as he did. Jerry seemed as invincible as a 39-year-old man could be, with one exception: He couldn’t seem to kick his smoking habit.
The smoking issue came up when he and his wife, Allison, met with Maxine Galloway, a multiline agent with Southern Farm Bureau and a member of Triangle AIFA (N.C.). Jerry and Allison had just purchased a beautiful new home in Timberlake, N.C., and they needed homeowner’s insurance. Their realtor suggested they contact Maxine, and she helped them obtain the coverage they needed.
More to be done
Maxine knew, however, that her job wasn’t done. Jerry was running his own steel fabrication company and provided only health insurance for his employees and himself. Allison’s only work outside the home was helping Jerry from time to time. Neither had life insurance.
With three young children and a higher mortgage payment, Jerry and Allison needed no convincing to buy life insurance. Jerry bought close to $300,000 for himself, and Allison purchased a policy with a face amount of $100,000. During the process, Maxine pointed out to Jerry that he’d get a better premium rate if he stopped smoking, not to mention the obvious benefit to his health.
This was not a simple case of an agent trying to save her client a few dollars on his monthly premiums. The issue struck close to home. Maxine had been diagnosed with cancer when she was Jerry’s age. Fifteen years later, Maxine is now 55, feels great and talks to everyone about leading a healthy life. It struck a chord with Jerry, too. His father had died from lung cancer in his mid-50s.
Quitting smoking was an issue Jerry intended to address. For the time being, though, he was content knowing he had life insurance coverage, even if it meant having to pay a higher premium.
Four months later, the Morrises were at a church gathering at a lake. Allison and the kids had ventured off for some fun; Jerry stayed behind to relax. He told a friend he had some pain in his chest and assumed he had pulled a muscle. The friend got him some water and suggested he sit down. Moments later Jerry collapsed. He was already in an ambulance when Allison and the kids found their way back to him. Jerry died of a massive heart attack before reaching the hospital.
In an instant, the world had turned upside down for Allison and the kids. In the 15 months that have passed since Jerry died, Allison has worked hard to keep things as normal as possible for the kids. The life insurance has been a huge help. Allison used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on their new home, eliminate most of her debts and put the remainder in a money market fund for other needs. Just as important, the money allowed Allison to stay home for a year so she could focus on helping the kids adjust to life without their dad and, at the same time, deal with her own grief.
“I think he’s proud”
Allison just recently began working two days a week as an administrative assistant in a medical clinic. Though it’s not easy raising three kids by herself, she feels confident she can manage on her own. She also believes that Jerry watches over them. “I think he’s proud of the way we’re carrying on,” she says.
Maxine is glad she was able to make such a big difference for her client. She has developed a closer relationship with Allison and has helped her buy more life insurance and make other financial plans for the future. What Maxine was able to do for the Morris family has reinforced her belief that she has a responsibility to speak with each of her property and casualty customers about life insurance. It’s something Maxine plans to do with even greater discipline and persistence in the years ahead.
Jon Dressner is vice president of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education. For more information on LIFE’s realLIFEstories program or to obtain a realLIFEstories application, visit www.LIFE-line.org or call 202-464-5000.