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Caneyville's go-to guy

This is the project that I worked on during the Mountain Photojournalism Workshop in Leitchfield, Kentucky in Oct. 2022.


After being diagnosed with cancer, Jerry Walker's community raised more than $20,000 for his treatment. Now in remission, Jerry pays back by doing small jobs for his neighbors.  

Jerry Walker, 62, is always willing to help others, but his reason  goes far beyond just wanting to be a good neighbor.

After moving to Caneyville in 1997, Jerry, who is Black, and his wife, Cindy, who is white, were not greeted with open arms. Being the first and only Black citizen of the town was difficult for Jerry.

“We had mud thrown at our cars and house,” Jerry says. Gradually, as Jerry and Cindy got to know their neighbors, they   were able to mend their relationships.

Then in 2018, Jerry, who rarely got sick and never missed work even when he didn't feel well, was sick and stayed home. That's when Cindy knew something was wrong.

“He doesn’t know sit back and relax, he doesn’t understand that,” Cindy says.

In July, he was diagnosed with five different cancers. The community held a benefit auction to raise money to help with his medical bills. They raised about $23,000.

“There was a time when I received, and now it’s my turn to give back,” says Jerry who is now in remission.  These days Jerry does a variety of small jobs for his neighbors, including mowing lawns, blowing and raking leaves, power washing and painting houses –  anything that needs to be done. Jerry also feeds the stray cats in his neighborhood.

“Jerry is just wonderful in this community," says E.E. “Mr. Spirit” McGhee, a former teacher who is a close friend. "When we think of Jerry we don’t see color, we don’t see Black and we don’t see racism. All we see is a wonderful man.”

Jerry doesn’t wait to be told when a friend needs his help. He just shows up and does what needs to be done.

“I know I can give him a call and he will be right here,” says Marilyn Templeman who is a close friend of the Walkers.

Things have come full circle for Jerry. Lately he has been helping with a benefit auction like the one his community held for him, this time for a man injured in a motorcycle accident.

Jerry finds joy in the things he does for his neighbors.

“I love this, I love giving back and helping out.”

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