Gary Jerke, age 74, of Tripp, S.D., died of an apparent heart attack on Tues., June 28, 2022. Funeral services were at 10:30 a.m., Sat. July 2, 2022, at First American Lutheran Church in Tripp, S.D. Visitation was from 5-7 p.m., with a 7 p.m. prayer service on Fri., July 1, 2022, at the First American Lutheran Church. Burial was in Grace Hill Cemetery in Tripp, S.D.
Gary was first and foremost a man of great faith who loved Jesus and his family beyond measure. So much so that he and Jan started a nonprofit called Faith and Family First. He loved genealogy and his ancestry, tracing his roots back 100s of years. He loved living on and caring for the farm his ancestors first settled on in 1878. His ancestors were Germans from Russia, and he was a great proponent of educating others and sharing his ethnic heritage. Gary helped start the local Germans from Russia Heritage Society club called Sodak Stamm, and he and Jan endowed funds to Northern State University to create the Claassen-Jerke Germans from Russia Cultural Center.
He loved learning, reading, thinking and researching. He wrote several books and devotionals. He was a pastor, a social worker, a legislator, local and state Jaycee leader, and had a long, blessed career in financial services with Lutheran Brotherhood. Gary was highly involved in his church teaching both Sunday School and Confirmation, as well as serving on the church council. He loved taking notes and clipping articles from the paper, and his mind never seemed to stop. He could often be found sitting in a comfortable chair listening to nature, German or Christmas music (often humming a tune) or watching classic TV shows, reminiscing on times past.
He also loved watching sports of any kind. He was a great advocate for the unborn and conservative values and was a man of great conviction. He loved anything German, especially the foods and language, and helped share this with others through his promotion of the Oktoberfest in Menno, for so many years. He was an advocate for his hometown of Kaylor and an avid collector of Kaylor memorabilia. Gary organized and held a Jerke family reunion for many of his years.
One of his and Jan’s legacy projects was to renovate the farmhouse and barns on the family homestead where they lived to share with others as The Farm. The focus of which is on the eight F’s Gary promoted being Faith, Family, Freedom, Fitness, Farm Life, Food, Finance and Fun. He and Jan loved to travel and visit with friends and loved sharing their farm with others. They loved spending time together helping and visiting their kids and grandkids. He loved being goofy with his three granddaughters and others for that matter. He was a calm and peaceful man living out James 1:19 in his daily life. He was the consummate planner and provider and leader for his family. He will be deeply missed.
Gary was born Feb. 21, 1948, to Emil and Velda (Dobler) Jerke in Scotland, S.D. He attended Scotland High School and graduated with degrees in history and English from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and went on to receive a Master’s Degree in social work from the University of Nebraska.
His intentions were to become a pastor, and he interned as a lay pastor when he met his wife, Janice (Claassen) Jerke, serving at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bancroft, S.D. They married on August 15, 1971, in De Smet, SD and lived briefly in Yankton, Lincoln, Neb., Sioux Falls and Tripp before settling in on the family farm near Kaylor, S.D.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Emil and Velda Jerke; parents-in-law, William and Agnes Claassen; sister-in-law, Crystal Jerke; brothers-in-law, Jim and Dennis Claassen and many other beloved relatives.
Gary is survived by his wife, Janice (Claassen) Jerke; son, Kristopher (Brooke) Jerke of Sioux Falls, S.D.; daughter, Heidi (Johnny) Wade III of Mission, S.D.; granddaughters, Eleanor, Ava and Amelia Jerke; brother, Greg (Gloria) Jerke of Flushing, Mich.; brother-in-law, Dean (Vicky) Claassen of Crooks, S.D.; aunt, Laverne (Dobler) Goeken of Scotland, S.D., and numerous nieces, a nephew and cousins.