CATHERINE ANN GERKE (McGovern), 88, of Grand Rapids passed away at her Heather Hills home on October 5, surrounded in love by her family. She was the devoted wife of Frank W. Gerke for 57 years until his passing in 2012. Katie was preceded in death by her two grandsons, Brent Schiefler and Dalton Gerke. She will be greatly missed by her eight children, Kathleen (Roger) Schiefler, Michael Gerke, Diane (Bob) Cammenga, Daniel Gerke, Gary (Ramona) Gerke, Karen (John) Roark, Maureen (Doug) Calkins, and Matthew (Wendy) Gerke, plus 29 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren. She was a dedicated to us all and as our father stated, “Your mom was the glue, steel and elastic that held everything together.”
Katie graduated from Catholic Central High School, class of 1951 and then Mercy Central School of Nursing class of 1954. As a registered nurse, Katie served in obstetrics at Mercy Health St. Mary’s for 28 years, then became a nurse clinician for the fertility specialist Dr. R. J. Eward. In 1993 her husband had an opportunity to transfer to Ottawa, Canada for 3-years with his job for the Defense Dept. There she flourished with many wonderful opportunities; joined the Embassy Club, embraced those from many cultures, learned a bit of French, and more importantly, helped to establish and operate Ottawa’s first soup kitchen, named The Shepherds of Good Hope, feeding 350 per day. She then helped to organize a night shelter for 80 men where her sewing skills were well utilized as she sewed covered cushions for make-shift mattresses. Soon she realized many had no winter clothing, so she tirelessly worked to establish a distribution center that provided for those in need. Catherine loved to create beauty everywhere – decorating her lovely home, sewing 100’s of fashionable garments and beautiful treasures for her herself, her children, and grandchildren. Her green thumb was a life-long passion and certainly an extension of her beautiful and giving hands, which toiled endlessly in the garden, the kitchen, and her numerous volunteer commitments. Once retired she took classes in landscape design, herb gardening, and designed floral arrangements for Fruit Basket Flowerland and all our family weddings. She was very involved with designing and maintaining gardens for many others and installed a lovely cottage garden at her beloved family cottage on Big Star Lake. Big Star was the highlight of every summer, where her large circle of life-long friends from Catholic Central congregated for many wonderful family memories and lots of laughter. She brought her beautiful smile, compassion, and gentleness to many; as a Christian Services Co-Ordinator, and Eucharistic Minister – both at St. Mary Magdalen parish – as a grief counselor with Hospice, and visited the sick, elderly and home-bound at area nursing homes.
Katie was a woman of exceptionally strong faith who consistently led by example. As corny as it may sound, she was truly a pollinator – her valuable seeds and lessons blew freely, landing here and there, waiting to germinate into something new and beautiful. She showed us how to live and love, how to support each other always, how to be generous in time and spirit, and most of all, she showed us the way to a life well-lived, rooted in deep faith and blessed hope.
Her commitment to life was a powerful sacred circle – she began by delivering countless babies and then all eight of her own into this world. She finished her race with all of us at her side, delivering her to her heavenly reward. No doubt the Lord is proclaiming, “Well done! My good and faithful servant.” We love you Mom….today, tomorrow, forever. Visitation will be 4-8 PM Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Chapel, 3980 Cascade Rd. SE, Grand Rapids with a Vigil Service at 7:30 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered 10:30 AM Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at St. Sebastian Church, 9408 Wilson Ave. SW, Byron Center with visitation one-hour prior. Msgr. William Duncan, presiding. Interment St. Sebastian Catholic Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to; The Village of Heather Hills, 1055 Forest Hill Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 – in memo state; Katie Gerke, Staff Appreciation Fund, or Right to Life of Michigan, 2340 Porter St. SW, P.O. Box 901, Grand Rapids, MI 49509-0901.