Geraldine Norma "Gerry" Masterka
Service: There will be no services
Geraldine Norma “Gerry” Masterka, a native of Barry County, passed away in Farmington Hills, Michigan, on March 3, 2020, following a brief illness. She was 90.
Gerry, a twin, arrived with her brother Bud on February 26, 1930 at the family farm in Johnstown Township, Michigan. She was the fifth of seven children born to Samuel Norman and Vera Blanche (Trine) Knapper. Throughout her life Gerry fondly reminisced about her days on the farm, recalling the names of many of the animals, including her father’s draft horses, and her dogs. She was always proud of her abilities with horses, and equally pleased that she learned to drive her father’s LaSalle at age 13. Sam and Gerry had a special bond, and he took the time to teach her a number of songs which he would sing while working. Throughout her life the lyrics of this music remained with her.
The church was always a large part of Gerry’s life, and her talents as a singer and piano player were often called upon at many gatherings. Later in life she would sing on a local radio show, and entertain audiences at company parties and picnics.
Gerry began her education in a one room school house, and graduated from the W.K. Kellogg Agricultural School in 1947, and then from the Grand Rapids School of the Bible. She joined the workforce first in the office at Oliver Manufacturing, who were engaged in fulfilling a defense contract, assembling fuselages for the Boeing B-47. Gerry learned the nomenclature for the multitude of parts for this aircraft, a skill which served her well, as her boss was often less schooled in the details of the work. The vocabulary stayed with her, which became a gift as she married a former military pilot, and raised a professional pilot. Throughout her life Gerry attended a great number of airshows across the nation, and she could easily converse about aviation.
When Oliver Manufacturing completed their defense contract, Gerry then went to work for Paul Ponitz, DDS, and later John Dodge DDS, acquiring the skills of a dental nurse on the job. She always remained friends with both doctors.
Gerry was a voracious reader, and a keen student of history and genealogy. She traveled extensively to visit the historic sites she had read about, and also to track down the details of her ancestors. Gerry always felt a kinship for everyone who had served in World War II, continually remembering their sacrifices and never forgetting anniversary dates of epic events from the war. She remained a devoted fan of war correspondent Ernie Pyle, and traveled to many places which memorize Pyle’s life and work.
A blind date led to a marriage with Edward J. Masterka on August 20, 1957, a happy union which lasted more than 53 years. From this bond came three children, and later three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Ed and Gerry traveled throughout their lives, and were always ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Their destinations sometimes confounded others, but those who understood their love of history, archaeology and nature were never surprised at their choices. Twice Gerry and Ed joined in the hunt for missing aircraft from World War II, once successfully finding a wreck in Hawaii, and once without success in the Superstition mountains of Arizona. They continually enjoyed hiking, and took long walks at every opportunity. At age 87 Gerry was still climbing the Pocosin mountain trail in Shenandoah National Park, needing only a walking stick and sturdy hiking shoes. On this trek a small bear cub bounded out of the bushes and came right up to her. While the animal was adorable, Gerry was adept enough to realize she had to quickly back away before the mother bear came out. The cub soon scooted back into the woods, and all was well.
Always a fabulous cook and baker, Gerry instilled these skills in her children. Unknown to many, she was also proficient at mechanics, occasionally helping her son rebuild aircraft and automobile engines, earning a certificate of appreciation from the Commemorative Air Force for her help at the Wings Over Houston airshow. She also had a love for motorcycles and vintage cars.
Gerry was preceded in death by her husband Ed in 2011. She is survived by her children Suzanne (Henry) Gignac, Paula (Norman) Boegner, and Edward (Rebecca) Masterka, and her grandchildren Lauren (Zack Mellema) Gignac, John (Megan) Gignac, and Marcus (Emily Sexton) Gignac. Gerry’s three great-grandchildren are Addyson and Colton Mellema, and Caroline Gignac. Gerry is also survived by her twin brother, Gerald “Bud” Knapper, a sister-in-law Maurine Knapper, her lifelong friend Erdine Bivens, and several nieces and nephews.
There will be no visitation or funeral for Gerry. Burial will take place at the East Hickory Corners Cemetery. Gerry and Ed always supported the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum, and for those who wish, a donation in Gerry’s memory can be sent to the Friends of Ernie Pyle Development Fund, PO Box 345, Dana, Indiana 47847, or via the museum website at www.erniepyle.org.
Arrangements will be handled by Stroo Funeral Home Inc., located at 1095 68th St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508.
STROO FUNERAL HOME
1095 68TH ST SE
GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49508