Obituary for Alford "Al" Jerde
Alford “Al” Jerde
August 1, 1923 to February 2, 2016
Alford Maynard Jerde was born Aug. 1, 1923 to Andrew & Minda Jerde of Sisseton South Dakota.
Our dad grew up in Sisseton South Dakota. His family faced many struggles, but “family” was always the strength of their existence. Dad’s family lived in multiple residences both in Sisseton and on nearby farms. There were times when his family shared a residence with another family or families. Two of their homes burnt to the ground leaving the family with little more than the clothes they were wearing. Dad remembered living in at least 9 different residences. When living space was limited, Dad, or one or more of his siblings lived with relatives. Living with Grandparents or Aunts & Uncles reinforced the value of “family”. Dad shared that he remembered times when the family had to go to bed early because they ran out of kerosene which they used for lighting lamps and the stove. He remembers living in one residence where his Father, Mother, sister Jeanette, and brother Kenneth shared just two rooms.
Dad attended public schools. He attended a 1-room schoolhouse until he was 8 years old. The school included Kindergarten through 8th grade with about 15-20 children in the entire school. Dad’s family moved into town when he was in the 4th grade after the farmhouse they were living in burnt to the ground. He attended school in town until graduating from Sisseton High School in 1941. While in High School he participated in Football, Basketball, Soft Ball, Track, Glee Club, Mixed Chorus, Letterman’s Club, Bachelor’s Club, S.A.P. Club, Operetta, and Annual. During his senior year, Dad was captain of the football team, “S” Club president , and Senior Class Treasurer. He joked that the Treasurer position was an easy job because, as he put it, “We didn’t have any money to spend.”
Dad remembered that for fun, he and his friends fished for Bullheads and went swimming in the “Mud Hole” as they called it. He said: “you couldn’t swim in your shorts and not get them filthy from the mud so everyone skinny dipped.” Dad said that once, his Aunt Cora passed by the “Mud Hole” and caught Dad and his friends. He remembered her yelling: “Alford Jerde, you put your clothes on right now and get home before I tell your mother!”
Dad said his parents worked on WPA projects and he and his friends raked lawns and did gardening to make money for school clothes. He shared that once he and his best friend Kenneth Keenan were hired to thin carrots in a man’s garden. They did the work, very well in fact, thinning the largest carrots and then selling them on a street corner in town. Years later, while attending a class reunion, Dad and Kenneth Keenan found out from the man’s daughter that he knew all along what they were up to but didn’t care because he had his best crop of carrots that year.
While in High School, and for a short while after, Dad worked in for Stavik’s department store. He did general work such as unloading deliveries at the store, cleaning, and his favorite task, making deliveries to local patrons.
Dad enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1943 and was assigned to the 2nd Marines, 2nd Battalion, Easy Company, 1st Platoon. He participated in combat operations, including the amphibious invasions of Islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Okinawa. He was also part of the occupation forces in Nagasaki after the Japanese surrender. He returned home to Sisseton South Dakota in January of 1946.
Dad worked in several jobs and businesses after returning from WWII. He and a classmate from High School opened and operated a steak house restaurant. It was a thriving business until it was destroyed in a fire. Later, Dad and his brother Kenneth started Jerde Brother’s Electrical. They worked with the South Dakota Rural Electrification Agency running electrical lines to farms in Eastern South Dakota.
Dad married Muriel Carlson of Langford South Dakota on July 31, 1949. He said that he was always known in Sisseton as “Jerde” and his brother Kenneth was referred to as “Kenneth”. He said that when he called Mom to ask her out for their 1st date, he said, “Hello this is Jerde.” Dad said that mom responded, “Which one?” He joked many times that he wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or not when she discovered it was Al instead of Kenneth.
Dad & Mom moved to Colorado Springs Colorado in 1950 when his South Dakota National Guard Unit was called into active service during the Korean War. After initial training in Colorado Springs, Dad’s unit was sent to Alaska. His rank was, Master Sargent with the 196th Infantry Regiment, Heavy Mortar Company, and was stationed at Fort Richardson from September 1950 to April 1952.
While in Alaska, Mom accepted a teaching job in Hillsboro Oregon. After the Korean War, Dad returned to Hillsboro where he & Mom lived and raised three children, Gretchen (1955), Dwight (1957), & Phillip (1960). Other than short stints in 2 different apartments, Mom & Dad lived in the same home located at 526 NE Jackson St.
Settling in Hillsboro, Dad first worked in home construction, building a house on 14th street with his cousin Don Thelin. The plan was to build one house after another but Dad decided instead, to focus on specific construction trades. After the first house was built and sold, Dad spent the rest of his working years in the various construction trades, (electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning).
Dad’s spiritual life was a corner stone of his existence from an early age. His mother Minda insisted the family attend church regularly. Dad was a charter member of Calvary Lutheran Church of Hillsboro Oregon, helping organize and start the congregation in 1956. Dad attended Calvary regularly and served in many capacities. At various times over the years he was a member of the Choir, held positions on the Congregation Council, was Sunday School Superintendent, and participated in multiple committees and special events. Dad and Mom became members at Sheppard of the Valley Lutheran Church in Beaverton Oregon for a short while in the 1970’s but returned as members of Calvary shortly after. He remained a member of Calvary until his death.
Dad retired in 1981. His son Dwight remembers asking when he planned to retire. He told Dwight “I don’t know what I would do with all my free time.” Shortly after that conversation, within weeks actually, while working on the renovation of the new Market Theater Building in Old Town Portland, Dad made his decision to retire. The building was literally gutted of everything but the concrete pillars, steel beams and floors. It was December and the rain was blowing through the building horizontally. Dad said he stopped and thought, “What in the world am I doing this for.” That day after work, he stopped by his boss’ office and announced, “I’m retiring!” His boss responded that he had been wondering when he was going to come and announce this news.
Soon after retirement, Dad and Mom began spending their winters in Tucson Arizona enjoying the warm weather and many outdoor activities. Dad picked up golf and was hooked, continuing to play regularly until his last months. He scored his 1st hole – in – one on April 19th, 1991 while golfing with his son in law Doug Ely, at the Parkway Golf Links in Freemont California. Al and Muriel traveled during retirement visiting many Western and Mid West states. Dad enjoyed attending his High School reunions in Sisseton South Dakota whenever possible. He and Mom combined these trips with visits to relatives and friends throughout the Mid West.
Mom preceded Dad in death in 1998. As would be expected, Mom’s death impacted him greatly. Fortunately we, (his children and grand children) were able to spend time with him helping him through his grief.
Dad remarried in 2001 to Helen Danielson. Dad and Helen continued spending winters in Sun City Arizona. They loved the warm weather and created many close friendships with others in the park where they lived. Something that Dad especially enjoyed was Barbecue. He became known for his delicious barbecued ribs and made them frequently for patio parties and special events such as New Year’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday. Dad and Helen continued spending winters in Arizona until their return to Oregon in 2014.
Dad loved celebrations and enjoyed getting together for birthdays, and other special events. He was a very social person and loved spending time with his friends and family. He was active until his last days. Dad said on multiple occasions, just weeks before he passed: “If someone told me 10 years ago that I would live until 92, and not have a care in the world, I would have said you’re crazy.” Dad golfed at least once each week until November of 2015 when he first sensed he was slowing down. He read the paper from cover to cover each day, enjoyed reading books, especially biographies about war heroes and political figures. He was a staunch republican yet admired Harry Truman, because as he stated: “He fired General Douglas MacArthur.”
Dad died on Tuesday February 2nd just before 11:00 pm due to complications of a rare form of skin cancer called Merkel Cell Carcinoma. He first began feeling lethargic in mid November and was diagnosed in early December. Dad’s final decline started on a Monday night, January 4th. We rushed him to the hospital where we discovered he had suffered a moderate heart attack, probably due to his dehydration and anemia caused by his cancer. Dad spent the next week in the hospital. While at the hospital he was surrounded by Helen, Gretchen, Dwight, Phil, Daughters in law Debbie and Susanne Jerde, and grandson Cameron. Long time friend Don Roberts, Pastor Matthew Eagan & others from Calvary visited him as well. He was discharged to a Rehab center on Monday evening January 11th. Dad had been approved for an experimental treatment but unfortunately declined in overall strength such that he was no longer a candidate for the treatments. He desperately wanted to go home, hoping to regain strength and be eligible again for experimental treatments. Cancer impacted Dad’s ability to swallow, making it difficult to eat and drink. He continued to decline but was discharged to his home on Monday afternoon February 1st. Dad mentioned several times that he was much more comfortable and at ease at home. Several times when he was re-adjusted in his recliner he stated: “This is wonderful.” Helen and Phil spent the night with Dad on February 1st. The next evening before his passing he awoke from a brief nap and asked “Is it time to go home to South Dakota?” We reassured him that he was home and he responded that he was glad. Shortly after this he took his last breath, and with a smile on his face, passed peacefully with Helen and Dwight at his side.
Memorial services will be held at Calvary Lutheran Church in Hillsboro Oregon on April 2nd, at 2 pm.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to one of the following charities:
• Calvary Lutheran Church: 937 NE Jackson School Rd, Hillsboro, OR. 97124
• The Jerde Family Educational Foundation: (A foundation that funds pre-school scholarships for needy children.) Contact Dwight Jerde.
• Merkel Cell Carcinoma Fund, University of Washington, http://depts.washington.edu/givemed/give/?page=make&source=dercar