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In Memoriam: Peter Gerhards (May 29, 1928 – May 3, 2023)

Longtime Silverton resident Peter Gerhards died May 3, 2023, after a series of falls in early April. He was just 26 days short of his 95th birthday and looking forward to a planned celebration in his honor.

Peter was born May 29, 1928, on a 20-acre farm near the one-building town of Loring, Kansas. He was the second of eight children of Mathias (Matt) and Margaret (Fritschen) Gerhards. The Great Depression caused the loss of the farm and the family’s eventual move to Topeka. In 1944 the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Peter began 11th grade at Central Catholic High School, graduating in 1946.

That fall he enlisted in the US Army Air Corp, serving three years at the Pentagon. He married Genevie (Jennie) Dietz on June 19, 1948, at Bolling Field in Washington DC. He left the Air Force in 1949, but after a few months of civilian life and with no money to enter college as he’d hoped, Peter enlisted in the US Army. He remained in the military service until 1970, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Tours of duty took him and his family to many posts across the country. In the early 1960s, he was among the many non-combatant advisors in South Vietnam, serving as advisor to the Vietnamese Military Personal Office and teaching English to Vietnamese nationals who worked there.

After retirement, seeking a less stressful lifestyle, he and son Ross made an exploratory journey to the Willamette Valley in early 1972, where he discovered and fell in love with Silverton. Soon he became involved in the life at St. Paul Parish, serving on the Parish Council and as a Eucharistic Minister. He also formed strong relationships with some of the monks at Mount Angel Abbey, where he worked for a time.

In 1973 Peter and Jennie purchased an old farmhouse on six acres outside the Silverton city limits. He enjoyed country life, raising cows, riding his horses, growing tomatoes and grapes, and making gallons and gallons of wine.

His wife, Jennie, of 58 years, died in 2006. After a fall in 2021, Peter moved to Mount Angel Towers, where he lived contentedly until he was hospitalized on April 9, 2023. He spent his final days under hospice care at an assisted living facility in Woodburn. 

Peter is survived by a sister, Susanna Perletti; sons, Paul Gerhards (Robin), Mark Gerhards (Florence), Ross Gerhards (Sue), and John Gerhards (Patty). He leaves behind 16 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be Friday, May 26, at St. Paul Catholic Church, 1410 Pine St., Silverton. Services begin with a 10 a.m. viewing, followed by a recitation of the Rosary at 10:30. A Funeral Mass will be offered at 11, with a burial ceremony immediately after. A reception will be held in the parish hall afterwards. Arrangements by Unger Funeral Chapel – Silverton.

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