John and Leah Jerke, who grew up and spent most of their lives in the Gackle area, have made a major impact on Jamestown Regional Medical Center with a bequest of $100,000.
John Jerke passed away in August 2007 and Leah in September 2011. JRMC’s Radiology Department will be named in their honor.
At the time of John’s death, the couple had been married 66 years. Their niece Anna Schneck and her husband Alfred, who now live in Sedona, Ariz., shared their story:
John was a farmer and Leah taught school, beginning in one-room schools in the 1930s. In the 1950s she began teaching special education classes in neighboring Lehr. She retired from teaching in 1975.
John loved to fish, play cards and poker, go to casinos and cook. During the winters, when he wasn’t busy farming, he had dinner ready for his wife every night when she came home from school.
Each fall, after hosting Minneapolis hunters on their farm acreage, John loved to can the ducks, geese and pheasants they gave him.
“They never had any children,” recalls Anna, “so they treated us like their children, along with other nephews and nieces.”
The Jerkes wintered in Mesa, Ariz., for more than 20 years. They loved playing pinochle with other snowbirds and looked forward to going to pick-your-own citrus orchards, where they could choose their own fruit for 5 cents a pound. John planted his own citrus trees, too – grapefruit, lemon, orange and mandarin orange – at their Arizona home. “Once a farmer, always a farmer,” his wife would quip.
After selling the Arizona property in 2004, they moved back to the farm full-time.
“They both loved to dance. That’s how they met,” Anna says. “Over the years they also traveled extensively – Europe, Scandinavia, Germany, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. They enjoyed life very much.
Leah loved reading, but hated cooking. She took up painting after she retired.
Meanwhile John spent free hours building storage sheds and dog houses, as well as building and remodeling houses in the Gackle area.
John was widely known as a good farmer and a hard worker. He was very proud of the farm where they lived their entire married lives, which he had purchased in 1940. He kept it immaculately clean.
His niece and nephew say he was very conservative but also generous. Though he’d only attended school through eighth grade, he was an avid reader with a tremendous memory.
Averse to risk, he invested his money safely. He and Leah chose Jamestown Regional Medical Center for their bequest. “They had used it throughout the years, and much more later in life,” Anna explains. “They wanted to help secure its future.
Photo: John and Leah Jerke on their 50th anniversary in 1991.
Jan Barnes, Foundation Director
Jamestown Regional Medical Center Foundation