GERKEN, GERALDINE (GERRY), passed away January 13th after a short illness. Gerry was 90 years old.
A 64 year resident of Orange County, Gerry was born on 14th May 1926 in Akron, Ohio.
Gerry grew up with her 3 brothers and 3 sisters in the corner store owned by her parents Albert Frederick Heller and Susanna Heller.
Gerry graduated from St. Mary of the Springs (now Ohio Dominican College) with a degree in Dietetics in 1948 and became "Betty Newton" working for the Ohio Fuel Gas Company. She moved to California to work for Southern Counties Gas Company as Home Services Director where she broke the glass ceiling in 1979 by becoming the first woman to be Market Service Builder Contact Director, taking on a position formerly assigned to men only. Gerry retired in 1988 after 36 years with the Gas Company.
Gerry married James R. Gerken in 1955 in Santa Ana and their daughter Elise was born in 1959. The family then moved to San Clemente in 1963.
Gerry felt very strongly about service and was a member of Zonta Club (Santa Ana and Newport Harbor) for 60 years, setting up new clubs and serving on the Zonta International public affairs committee. Dear to her heart was her service to the Zonta Club and the Wooden Floor.
Serving as chairman (President) of Los Angeles Home Economists in Business, Gerry and in 1987 was inducted into the National Home Economists Hall of Fame. Several terms as President of Santa Ana Girls Club followed – Gerry set up the club through Zonta.
Directorship of United Way and numerous other organizations were also undertaken and many accolades followed, despite the fact that Gerry never sought recognition.
Following Gerry's retirement in 1988, somehow Gerry found time to continue her work in Zonta and she also joined the Orange Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (ODCCW), becoming the chair on their Human Trafficking committee. Gerry also served on every post available at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.
Gerry was listed in Who's Who of American Women 1968 - 1971, Who's Who in the West 1970, International Biography 1969 and also Women of Achievement 2000.
Awards include: OC Sales award 1961, OC 4-H Club "Meritorious Service Award" 1963, McCalls Home Service Achievement award 1964, Zonta awards too numerous to mention, Certificate for Services to the Blind 1965, US House of Reps Diverse Community Award 2013, California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition award 2013, Orange County Human Relations Community Leader award 2013 and finally Catholic Woman of the Year 2014.
Gerry is survived by her daughter, Elise Evans and son-in-law Stephen and her grandchildren Jonathon Evans and Gregory Evans.
Donations to be made to Zonta International or Catholic Charities.
Funeral Mass to be held at Our Lady of Fatima (San Clemente) 11am on Thursday 26th.