Vera L. Gerken Hays, 90, Carl Junction Mo., died Sunday May 23, 2010 at Freeman Hospital after a short illness. ¬†
She was born Sept. 4, 1919 in Enid, Okla., one of 10 children of Theodore and Clara Bredehoft Hollrah, including her twin brother, Paul. Her parents and two sisters died when she was young and an older sister kept the family together through this time of dust bowl and depression.¬†
She graduated from Pioneer High School and attended Oklahoma A&M at Stillwater, Okla. Vera taught in rural schools around Enid and then met Lewis Gerken who was stationed at U.S. Army Air Corps Flying School Enid (now Vance Air Force Base). They were married on Jan. 31, 1943 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Enid, and lived there until after the war. In 1945, they moved to Humboldt, and then to Chanute in 1956.
Although she was primarily a homemaker, she also did substitute teaching and was one of the original Head Start teachers when that program was first started. Lewis preceded her in death in 1975. In 1984, Vera married C.F. “Jerry” Hays (an old college beau) and returned to Enid. Jerry also preceded her in death in 1997. In 2004, Vera moved to Carl Junction, Mo., to be close to her daughter, Denise, and son, Tom.
A member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin, she was always active in the Lutheran church, serving in many capacities over her lifetime.
Wherever she went Vera made deep and abiding friendships. Her children admired her, her family, and her generation for courage, faith loyalty and values, holding stories warmly in their hearts, some with laughter and some with tears.
Survivors include three sons, Barry Gerken and wife, Anne, Bolton, Mass., Thomas Gerken, Joplin, Timothy Gerken and wife, Kathy, Columbia, Mo., and daughter Denise Geier and husband, Chris, Carl Junction, four grandchildren, Heather Gerken, Stefanie Lawson, Tammy Adkins, and Brandon Gerken; five great-grandchildren; two brothers, Carl Hollrah, Cerritos, Calif., and Victor Hollrah and wife, Dorothy, Montrose, Colo.; and a sister-in-law, Armilda Hollrah, Austin, Texas. Cremation arrangements are under the direction of Parker Mortuary, Joplin.
Memorial service will be held Saturday, May 29 at 10 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, after which the family will receive friends. Graveside services will follow at 2 p.m. at Mount Hope Cemetery in Humboldt.
Memorial contributions may be made to Immanuel Lutheran Church, 2616 Connecticut Ave., Joplin, MO 64804.