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Gerald F. Engel, age 97, gently reached for the welcoming embrace of his Lord and Savior on February 3, 2023, at home surrounded by his wife and children. He has been reunited with his son David in the sanctuary of Heaven.
Gerald was born on September 30, 1925, in Appleton to Frank and Cecilia (Amend) Engel. Growing up in Appleton during the Great Depression gave young Jerry an appreciation for money and hard work and a penchant for “earning a buck.” His earliest jobs were being a pinsetter at a bowling alley, making “malted milks” at Gordon’s Ice Cream, and stock boy at Bellin’s Grocery.
He attended St. Joseph Grade School and then St. Mary High School in Menasha, often hitchhiking to get there.
Following his high school graduation in 1943, Jerry began working at the Kimberly-Clark Mill. However, his work career was interrupted by being drafted into the United States Navy for participation in World War II. He served from February of 1944 and was honorably discharged in April of 1946. Jerry was assigned to the USS Uvalde (AKA – 88) attack cargo ship. During his time in the Pacific Ocean Theater, Jerry witnessed the destruction of the ammunition ship Mount Hood and the aerial Kamikazes.
As a Seaman First Class, Jerry sailed to locales including the Philippines and Okinawa, and had the thrill of steering the 459-foot Uvalde. A highlight to Jerry’s military service was taking the Old Glory Honor Flight to Washington D.C. with his daughter.
Jerry returned to Appleton and his job at Kimberly-Clark in 1946, working over 42 years at the mill. His post-war bachelor years included being in the St. Joseph Men’s Choir, close family gatherings, and venturing to Northwoods lake country.
In 1955, Jerry met Lucille Modl at a Don Bosco dance and they were married on April 21, 1956, celebrating over 66 years of marriage. Jerry and Lucille raised a daughter and three sons in Appleton.
Jerry’s work ethic and financial discipline, along with the challenges of shift work, allowed his children a parochial education throughout their school years. He always put his family first and there was nothing lacking in the Engel household. More importantly, he provided a father’s love and security. Jerry was a devoted husband to Lucille, and he offered her reassurance and support throughout their married life. The couple were steadfast parishioners of St. Joseph Parish.
Family highlights for Jerry’s young family were annual summer vacations to Blakley’s Birch Reef Resort on Lower Buckatabon Lake in Conover. These special trips established a life-long connection to the area, and Jerry’s favorite slogan in anticipation of another week there was “Back to Buckatabon.”
In 1985, Jerry and Lucille fulfilled the family dream of owning property in the Conover area. They purchased a trailer and land just down the road from “Buck” and Jerry christened it “Engel’s Eden.” He enjoyed these years fishing for muskie and bass with his sons, yet he equally loved the deep woods with its mystery and wildlife. Jerry’s two trophy northern pike catches from the 1960’s were personal bests. The larger pike was a winner in the Post Crescent Master Angler Contest.
Jerry was a master gardener with a keen eye for landscaping; his backyard always flourished, and this passion for growing things has taken root with his grandchildren. He was an ardent reader, and a lover of books, with a special interest in the history of England. He shared this enthusiasm with his children, most notably with his daughter Mary Jean, who kept him well-stocked in books. His greetings of, “Good to see you, Kid” is a cherished memory for her.
In his later years, Jerry enjoyed his daily coffee at McDonald’s with his brother George and the sailor in him was always watching the skies and talking about the weather. A donut or semmel from his son and daughter-in-law’s bakery was a frequent treat, and trips with Steve for groceries and flowers motivated him well into his nineties.
Our father possessed a quiet strength but was gentle in nature. As a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather he favored us with his wisdom, compliments, and encouragement. Jerry, along with his wife Lucille, truly lived a life that reflected the values of the “Greatest Generation,” one of hard work, commitment, and sacrifice. Thanks Dad!
Until we all meet again, we take comfort in knowing that you are with David in the eternal sunshine of God’s Paradise.
Gerald is lovingly survived by his wife Lucille, his sister Dorothy Giesen, his children Mary Jean (Karl) Roovers, Mark (Lynn) Engel, Steven Engel, Grandchildren: Emily Roovers (Adam Geiser), Elizabeth Roovers, Samantha Roovers (Tom Johnson), Christian (Caitlin) Roovers, Faustine Engel, Miles Engel, Laura (AJ) Looker, Gabrielle Engel (John Luke Parlow), Great-grandchildren: Isabelle Cherny, Arlo Geiser, Micah Shields, Koda Shields, Cassidy Roovers, Waverly Roovers, Teagan Engel, Finnean Looker, Elliott Looker, Griffin Looker and many nieces and nephews. Gerald is preceded in death by his son David, parents Frank and Cecilia Engel, in-laws Ernest and Antoinette Modl, brother George Engel, brother and sister-in-law John and Dottie Engel, brother-in-law Norbert Giesen, as well as other family members.
Our family would like to express our sincere gratitude to Steve, whose dedication and unparalleled devotion to both of our parents allowed our father an uncompromised life at home. We would also like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at St. Elizabeth hospital, the staff at Moments Hospice, and Dr. Werner and Laura Looker for their compassionate care of our father.
A private funeral service has been planned.
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