FORT MITCHELL, Ky. - Jerry Deters, the father of tourism in Northern Kentucky, passed away Friday at the age of 85.
Deters, who started off in the home-building business, helped cultivate Northern Kentucky into a tourist destination in 1970 when he built the Drawbridge Inn in Fort Mitchell.
The Korean War veteran operated the site from 1970 until 2003 before selling the hotel to his brother, Charles Deters, in 2004.
The 15-acre site on Buttermilk Pike operated as a hotel, convention center and restaurant complex for 42 years until it closed Dec. 2, 2012.
Attorney Eric Deters called his uncle Jerry a "visionary" for his efforts with the Drawbridge Inn and other business ventures that helped change the face of both the business and entertainment sectors in the region.
"Before the Drawbridge there wasn't really a hotel between the airport and downtown Cincinnati. There wasn't even a convention center. He was influential in bringing large groups to Northern Kentucky and the Mainstrasse area," said Eric Deters, who called his uncle a "second father."
Eric Deters said his uncle founded the Northern Kentucky Convention Bureau and sat on the board of the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati International Airport for many years.
"Northern Kentucky wouldn't be what it is today without Jerry Deters," he said.
While it would be easy for a grieving nephew to highlight the accomplishments of his relative, it seems clear the region of Northern Kentucky echoes the sentiments regarding Jerry Deters' vision and commitment to the community.
In February 1995, a plaque honoring Jerry Deters' efforts was posted in Covington's Mainstrasse Village, where the businessman was influential in the restoration of many buildings and the construction the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, which is locally known as the Pied Piper Tower.
"When we celebrate Jerry Deters, and consider his greatness, we need not look far for the pillars and structures that indicate his concern for and devotion toward the community," the plaque reads.
"Look along Main and Sixth streets and admire the restoration of the buildings, the beautiful and graceful Goose Girl Fountain for all to gaze upon and enjoy. The stately kiosk to serve as an information center for tourist [sic] and shoppers, the magnificent bell tower, with its jacquemart that operates and its carillon that chimes on the hour. These structures and many hours of hard work translate into Mainstrasse Village."
The monument was commissioned by the community in order to honor a man who "whose concern for his purpose far outweighs his concern for his own person...It is to recognize his ability to combine the political nature of economics with the kind of practical application that meets a community's needs."
The legacy of Jerry Deters will live on in many ways, including his business ventures, respect within the Northern Kentucky community and his extensive family. He and his late wife, Margaret Deters, whom he married on Thanksgiving Day in 1955, had six children.
He also leaves behind 28 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His son-in-law, Mark Simendinger, is the president of Kentucky Speedway.
An announcement in June by the Bellevue company Brandicorp LLC suggests that Jerry Deters' histoc inn will live on in some capacity as well.
The company plans to develop a mix-used facility on the site of the historic inn, which is company officials called "arguably the best-located and most easily accessible site in all of Northern Kentucky."
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Ronald B. Jones Funeral Home.
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