Charles “Chuck” Thomas Gerry passed away peacefully on March 6, 2022.
He was born in Detroit on April 9, 1933, and lived there with his mother, father and younger sister until 1941, when the family moved to Los Angeles. While it is difficult to imagine such a scene in central LA today, the family lived on an acre of land with a small orchard and a hand-operated tractor. A young Chuck helped tend an expansive vegetable garden as well as a menagerie of animals including turkeys, chickens, rabbits and a cow (somewhat predictably named “Daisy”).
Perhaps chasing after chickens developed Chuck’s natural talent for running. His winning achievements on the track at Mount San Antonio Community College would bring him to the attention of Occidental College’s Payton Jordon (Jordon would later go on to become coach of the U.S. Olympic track team). Chuck had considerable success on the cinders in his first year at “Oxy,” but an injury would sadly force him to prematurely hang-up his spikes in his junior year.
Despite this unfortunate turn of events, college life wasn’t all bad and things brightened considerably when, in his senior year, Chuck met Helen Bergquist, a sophomore at Oxy. They became engaged the summer after Chuck’s graduation and before he was drafted into the army. The couple would spend the next two years apart, while Chuck served as a radar operator in Japan. They were married on Dec. 14, 1957, barely a month after Chuck’s return to the U.S.
After the Army, Chuck joined United Pacific Insurance Company as a trainee underwriter before joining Crum & Forster Insurance Company for what would prove to be a successful business career spanning 35 years. In 1969, Chuck accepted a promotion that meant moving the family (which now included three young children) from Southern California to New Jersey. While the East Coast (from Cape Cod to Florida) would be home for many years, Chuck and Helen never lost their yearning to return to the “West” and they purchased a home on Flathead Lake in 1989. The property appealed to Chuck’s long-held love of fishing, camping and hiking in the mountains.
Over the next 30 years, Chuck would prove to be a generous host as the lake house overflowed with visiting friends and an ever-expanding number of grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) who would gather for family reunions on Flathead. He seemed to take it all in his stride with his only concern being how the septic tank would cope. An enduring memory will be that of “Papa” (as he had affectionately come to be called) sitting back, simply enjoying the wonder of the smiles and the laughter and the busy activity of the family that surrounded him.
And he loved his family very much. They were precious to him, and Chuck spent a lifetime devoted and committed to ensuring the well-being of his wife of 64 years and that of his children and their families. We will be sustained by the truth that death does not have the final word and by the lasting glimpses of him that we catch in those he has, for a time, left behind.
The family will be gathering to celebrate his life on the lake he loved so much once the snows have gone, and the ice has melted away ...