Lawrence “Larry” Christian Gerken, Jr. passed away unexpectedly on February 21, 2022, at the age of 76, at his winter home in Bradenton, Florida. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, educator, farmer, volunteer, community leader and friend.
Larry is survived by his wife, Alice (McCotter) Gerken; his children Liza (Steve) Schuller of Holgate, OH, Mike (Angie Fraccica) of Frankfort, OH, and Abby (Brandon) Readshaw of Napoleon, OH; stepchildren Dave Grafitti of Perrysburg, OH, Andy (Kim) Grafitti of Greenville, SC, Ben (Shann) Leatherman of Battle Creek, MI, and Amy (Jayson) Landers of Battle Creek, MI; grandchildren Noah, Rylie, and Lexa Schuller, Peyton and Sammy Gerken, Caden, Cason, Cale, and Calleigh Readshaw, Jake, Isabella, and Sophia Grafitti, Justin (Chrystina) Turner, and Raegan (David) Villanueva, Sydney and Vincent Leatherman, Grace and Hannah Keenan, Zoey Pierce, and Cade Landers; great-grandchildren Alani and Zayne Villanueva, and Hayes Turner; and siblings, Tom Gerken of Vernon Center, NY; Linda (Bernie) Erven of Columbus, OH; Judy Hess of Wooster, OH; and Dan (Nancy) Gerken of Holgate, OH.
Preceding him in death were his parents Lawrence and Alta (Sonnenberg) Gerken, brother-in-law Frank Hess, and sister-in-law Carole (Tom) Gerken.
Larry was born on June 8, 1945, on a farm in McClure, OH, to Lawrence and Alta (Sonnenberg) Gerken. He grew up on the family dairy farm outside of Holgate with his siblings, was active in Henry County 4-H and attended Holgate High School, where he was a member of the graduating class of 1963. He then continued his education at The Ohio State University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture in 1967 and a Master’s Degree in 1986. He began his career in education at Paulding Schools and Napoleon Schools. Larry left education to work as a farm manager for several large farms out of state before returning to the field of education in 1979 as an agricultural education teacher at Holgate High School for 25 years. While at Holgate High School, he advised 18 FFA members to the State FFA Degree and 5 FFA members to the prestigious American FFA Degree. In 2017, Larry was inducted into the Henry County Agriculture Hall of Fame. Throughout his career in education, he also coached football, basketball, track, and volleyball at the junior high, freshman, junior varsity, and varsity levels.
Larry was a member of the Holgate Lion’s Club and the Henry County Retired Teachers’ Association. He served as president of the Horseshoe Cove (Bradenton, FL) Horseshoe Club, was a board member of the Woodshop, and a committee member of various other activities. In Fremont, IN, he and Alice were members of Peace Lutheran Church and he served as president of the homeowner’s association.
Those who knew and loved Larry appreciated his passion for being outdoors, where he enjoyed cutting wood, spending time in the woods and checking on crops. He was a recycling fanatic, working with hundreds of students to create a well-known recycling program benefiting Holgate High School FFA. A lifelong Buckeye fan, Larry never knew a stranger. He enjoyed spending time with family and friends, and he had a talent for running into people he knew throughout his travels.
Memorials may be made in Larry’s name to the following organizations: Henry County Junior Fair Buyer’s Club, Henry County Retired Teachers, or Holgate Athletic Boosters.
Friends will be received in the Zachrich Family Funeral Home, 114 William Street, Holgate on Friday, March 18, 2022 from 4-7:00 pm and again one hour before the service at church. The Celebration of Larry’s life will be Saturday at 11:00 am in St. John Lutheran Church, Holgate with Reverend Jeff Teeple officiating.
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