Curtis Gerken Obituary
Curtis E. Gerken of Neenah, Wis., 71, passed away peacefully Saturday, April 25, 2020, surrounded by his loving family at St. Paul Elder Services. Curt lived with Parkinson’s Disease and other related complications for over 16 years.
He was born in Lake City on Sept. 12, 1948 to Bernard and Verna (Grote) Gerken. Being born and raised on the family dairy and beef farm would shape the rest of his life. Curt graduated from Lincoln High School in Lake City and would go on to earn his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls in 1971. Curt and the love of his life, Judith (Maki), were joined in marriage on June 22, 1979 at United Methodist Church in Neenah.
Curt was a dedicated and hard worker his whole life. He held many unique jobs during his high school and college years. Some of these jobs included the Land O’ Lakes Oak Center Creamery Plant, Tennant and Hoyt Flour Mill, Frontenac State Park, Minnesota Department of Conservation, U.S. Forest Service, and park superintendent for New Richmond, Wis.
Curt was employed as the building and grounds supervisor at Winnebago Mental Health Institute (WMHI) for 32 years. His duties included maintaining lawns of the 104 acre institution, snow removal, raising plants in his greenhouse, designing 25 annual flower beds and supervising a staff of employees, inmates and patients. His career at WMHI went above and beyond horticulture as his kind, compassionate and accepting character was felt by all those who interacted with him.
Being a life-long environmentalist, Curt never passed an opportunity to collect aluminum cans, pick up a smashed pen off the road to be reused, recycle shredded paper or try to maximize the fuel-efficiency of his beloved diesel Volkswagens. He always enjoyed learning about soil conservation, pointing out invasive plants (his favorites were buckthorn, purple loosestrife and garlic mustard) and ways to eradicate them, and paging through the annual Burpee and Jung seed catalogs. Curt’s passion was planting vegetable and flower gardens.
From home and duplex repairs to auto repairs, there wasn’t a project Curt was afraid to take on. He truly was a handyman. When Curt wasn’t working or fixing something, he enjoyed bike rides and travels with his family, and visiting Botanical Gardens.
Curt was a dedicated and faithful Christian of the Lutheran church all of his life. He served diligently in many ways, including chairman of the board of education, chairman of the board of buildings and grounds and head usher.
Curt is survived by his loving wife of 40 years, Judy; his son, Daniel (Jaclyn); daughter, Elizabeth (Matthew) Walker; grandkids, Ellie and Tyler Gerken, and Maxwell and Sylvia Walker; brothers, Dwain (Marilyn) and Robert (Lesley); and in-laws, Daniel (Kathy) Maki, William (Robin) Maki, Randall (Lynne) Maki, Kathleen Kolpack and Della (Bruce) Davey. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews. Curt was preceded in death by his parents, Bernard and Verna; brother, Bruce; and father-in-law, Walter Maki.
Heartfelt thanks to the St. Paul staff at the Manor, Poppy Path, Birch Place and the hospice program. Their exceptional care, compassion and support was much appreciated.
A private memorial service was held. To view Curt’s service, family and friends are invited to watch it on the Westgor Funeral Home’s Facebook page beginning on Friday, May 1, at 10 a.m. The family requests that if you wish to honor Curt with a donation, please think of one of the following: Wisconsin Parkinson Association, 945 N. 12th Street, Suite 4602 Milwaukee, WI 53233 or St. Paul Hospice Services, 316 E. Fourteenth Street, Kaukauna, WI 54130.
Arrangements handled by Westgor Funeral Home in Neenah, Wis. Online condolences may be left at www.westgorfuneralhomes.com.