Obituary by Gerrit Vandenberg (2021) – Fairbanks, AK
Former Fairbanks resident Gerrit N. Vandenberg, 84, returned home to be with his Lord and Savior on August 8, 2021 in Mansfield, Texas. He was born on May 15, 1937 in Pine City, Minnesota, near Duluth. Her parents were Gerrit “Jerry” Vandenberg, Sr. and Sylvia (Turpanon) Vandenberg. Gerrit, known to many as âGaryâ, grew up in the Duluth area and attended elementary and secondary school there.
He met his future wife, Merdita Arlene Thompson, during a Billy Graham crusade. Gary came to Alaska to work. Merdita arrived in Alaska from her home in Kansas City, Kansas, by Greyhound bus to marry Gerrit on February 17, 1970, at Fox Chapel, just outside Fairbanks. They settled in the North Pole region for many years, where they raised two children: Gerrit Dean and Sherry Lynn. They later bought property on the Chatanika River at 11 Mile Elliott Highway where Gerrit built a house overlooking the river to live there. He later built a second house nearby and moved there.
Gerrit worked in the construction industry and quickly started his own construction business, Gerrit & Company. He was a very hardworking and generous man. His company has built many new homes at the North Pole and Fairbanks. His company has also lathed, plastered and stuccoed many commercial, residential and industrial buildings throughout Alaska. In the Fairbanks area, the company has completed the Weller School, the Golden Valley Building, the Missile Defense Site, the North Pole Christian School and the Fox Chapel, to name a few. He has also worked in Juneau, Ketchikan, Kenai, Soldotna, North Slope and many other towns in Alaska.
He was also an avid hunter. He holds a Boone & Crockett record for an Alaskan brown bear, captured at Cape Lisbum, while working there. The bear hung on the wall of their house for a long time!
When Gerrit’s children reached school age, he wanted them to attend a Christian school. He decided to build one. He founded the North Pole Christian School in 1982, locating it at the corner of Silverleaf Avenue and Newby Road. A school board was chosen, and local candidates from Alaska and Lower 48 were chosen as staff to administer classes from kindergarten and kindergarten to high school. The school is now located on Badger Road. He will celebrate his 40th birthday next summer, in 2022.
Gerrit and his family have fraternized at Fox Grace and Truth Chapel for many years, as well as with a group from the North Pole who gathered in their home. Gerrit actively shared his Christian faith with the many people he met through his construction business. He was known for his honesty and quality work. His wife Merdita was his business ‘partner’, working quietly behind the scenes, keeping books, shopping and making sure everything went smoothly. She also kept a house that was known for its hospitality.
Gerrit is survived by his daughter, Sherry Lynn (Shawn) Taylor, and granddaughter, Kiera M. Taylor, of Mansfield, Texas; one brother, Michael (Geraldine) Vandenberg, of Duluth, Minnesota; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife, Merdita; their son, Gerrit Dean; his second wife, Carol Vandenberg; his parents; and two brothers, Joel (Hazel) and Douglas (Karen) Vandenberg, of Duluth.
A funeral service will be held on August 28 at 2:00 p.m. at the Forest Hill Cemetery Chapel, 2516 Woodlawn Ave., Duluth, MN. Arrangements will be made by Dougherty Funeral Home in Duluth, Minnesota. Interment will be in Forest Hill Cemetery.
Memorial donations can be made to North Pole Christian School, 2936 Badger Road, North Pole, AK, 99705, for scholarships.
Posted by Daily News-Miner on Aug 22, 2021.