James H "Jim" Gerkin
July 3, 1925 – November 22, 2018
James Hatfield Gerkin was born a day before the Fourth of July in 1925 to a small-town beauty from northwest Iowa and a preacher’s kid who spent much of his youth in Colorado. The red-headed baby would be called Jimmy on the backs of black and white photos that show him in the arms of proud parents and dressed in sailor uniforms. By the time he squired his future bride in his ’32 Ford Coupe, became a Golden Gloves Champ, and won the Sioux City High School mile championship, he was Jim.
He met Marjorie Skordahl on a hay rack ride. Jim was not particularly fond of the young man nestled next to her and struck up a conversation with the Scandinavian daughter of a veterinarian and a school teacher. She was Miss Congeniality at Central High and he was attending East High in a part of town called Morningside, near the meat packing district. Courting between the two began as the war in the Pacific Theater came to life.
Like many men did in 1943, Jim and many of his classmates marched from their graduation ceremony to the enlistment office. Trained in San Diego, he became a Navy medic for a Marine commando group and shoved off aboard the USS Oxford. Petty Officer Gerkin made two beach landings in the Philippines and another in Okinawa. They were experiences about which Jim would not speak until, sparingly, in his last years. When the Oxford berthed in San Francisco for the last time, the war veteran headed up the coast to rendezvous with Marge in Eugene, Oregon. She was a Romance Languages major at the University of Oregon.
The spark was still there. Jim enrolled. Their romance blossomed between classes and Marge accepted his proposal in the parlor of the Chi Omega sorority. After her graduation, they headed back to Sioux City. Jim completed his business degree at Morningside College, digging graves for extra money. They started a family - Steve was born in 1948 and Molly followed in 1952 - while Jim became a salesman for his father’s wood window business, the Gerkin Company. When his father, Virgil, retired Jim took the reins, leading the evolving business into the era of aluminum window and doors, sophisticated assembly lines, and fostered lumberyard dealerships throughout the upper Midwest Region and beyond.
Jim became a civic leader. He founded the Better Business Bureau in Sioux City, led Sertoma and the early Rivercade Festival on the banks of the Missouri River, that divided the town into three parts. His younger brother Tom was his partner in the business and they shared a commitment to bettering their community as well as a devotion to the Shriners and their choir, who sang in a celebration of Welsh music at Royal Albert Hall (London) in 1985. A polished singer and organ player for silent movies, his mother, Vera, was so proud.
The devoted father did not limit his singing to concerts. Jim was also fond of singing sailor songs learned in the Navy. While Marge produced breakfasts of Swedish pancakes and crispy bacon for the family at their Minnesota cabin on Lake Blanche, he belted out his favorite; a song about a salty sailor whose ears flapped in stormy weather. In the winter, the devoted couple often escaped the frigid winters for a week in March, heading south to the hot baths, slot machines and big-name entertainers in Hot Springs Arkansas. They were hooked.
A few years before retiring from his company, the manufacturer and his bride bought a fixer-upper on Lake Catherine, then a beautiful home on Lake Hamilton; a home they would cherish for a quarter of a century before settling into the retirement community of West Shores. Marge became ill and lingered. Jim went twice a day, every day for months to comfort his wife of 65 years. Upon her passing five years ago, Jim and his cat Daisy made the best of it. The outgoing octogenarian became the West Shores bingo-caller multiple times a week, participated in socials, dressed up for theme parties within the facility.
Jim continued his golf game with long-time friends, entertained folks on his pontoon boat until the age of 92 and joked with his best-friend Jim Hill, his gal-pal Tomie Jo Price and friend of seventy-years Barbara Mahoney. Although he could butcher the Spanish language that did not stop him from trying his hand with dining room servers who were so kind to him. West Shores was a perfect fit.
Diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer in October 2018, Jim was determined to stay in his apartment, surrounded by caring friends, comforted by Daisy and remembrances of Marge. This is not an easy task. It truly does take a village. With exceptional leadership, the nursing staff of the facility checked on him every two hours and coordinated the hospice service. 24/7 private care was professionally afforded by a cadre of wonderful souls.
His passing on Thanksgiving Day 2018 was the start of a new adventure, he believed. A week earlier, he shared, “God willing, I will be with your momma soon.”
Jim Gerkin is survived by his daughter, Molly Johnston (Larry, Justin, Libby, Andre, Susha and Ilona), his son, Steve Gerkin (Sue), Ben Gerkin (Caren, Macy, Maddy and Max), Laura Gerkin, Scott Gerkin (Shelley), Craig Gerkin (Kim), Joan Morris (Frank), Shannon Sullivan (Jane), and Marcia Matson.
- Memorial Service and Reception Saturday, December 8, 2018
James H "Jim" Gerkin
January 4, 2019
It was a privilege to have known Jim. He was always so kind, caring, and accepting of others. He left many at Blanche Lake and at family gatherings with wonderful words and stories and he is surely missed and his memory cherished. He truly shared the love of Christ with others. We rejoice with you that he is with family who has gone on before him in heaven above.
December 10, 2018
I am so sorry for your loss. I have had the pleasure of being his insurance agent for over 30 years. I loved your parents dearly. Jim would always come in the office with any issue that he wanted to discuss and I loved to see his smiling face. He will be missed!!
Melanie Madsen Greene
December 4, 2018
I am so glad that I knew your parents. They were both so kind and caring. They have been missed at Blanche Lake.
Enjoy all the memories you have.
Melanie Madsen Greene
December 3, 2018
Marilyn and I enjoyed the Gerkins all the time we lived in Sioux City. They were so gracious and friendly every time we met with them. I held such an admiration for Jim. He was a person to follow in everything he did. It did not matter to Jim who you were. He was a friend to everyone he met. His fun-loving way of life and the way he went out of this world should be a huge lesson to his kids and grand kids. He led the "Good Life" for sure,
Allan & Marilyn Duey
November 28, 2018
My sincere condolences on the loss of your father. It is a difficult transition when our parents are gone. But, we celebrate all the wonderful memories and they will always be in our hearts. I remember your parents from back in our Lincoln School days! Peace & comfort to you & all your family.
Susan Weiner Unger
November 28, 2018
I was so sorry to see your father's obituary in the Sioux City paper. Losing a parent is never easy. Please accept my deepest sympathy on your loss.
November 28, 2018
Jim and Marjorie were early and vocal supporters of my table making business and Jim encouraged me to remain independent when I asked for advice about an offer our company had received. I valued his advice and was so grateful that he took the time to mentor me.
My condolences to Steve, Molly and the rest of the family. I will mourn his passing, celebrate his life, and cherish the example that he bestowed upon me.
I'm happy that he and his bride are together again.