Gerald Martin Landherr, 89, of Austin, died suddenly of natural causes Wednesday, June 12, 2019, at his home in Austin.
Jerry was born on May 22, 1930, in Austin, a short distance from the family home in Rose Creek, and was the oldest of three children. Jerry played football at Rose Creek High School and was one of 10 students to graduate in the class of 1947.
He enjoyed working at his father’s business, Rose Creek Produce, and frequently traveled the gravel roads of Adams, Johnsburg, Taopi, Rose Creek and other small towns picking up chickens and eggs for distribution to New York, Chicago and other larger cities.
In the fall of 1947, Jerry entered St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and later transferred to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to obtain his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. In the 1950s, Jerry worked at various pharmacies, including Peoples Drug on Main Street and St. Olaf Hospital, where he met his first wife, who worked as a lab technician.
In 1960, he opened his own drugstore, Landherr Rexall Drug, on Austin’s east side — fondly known as Dutch Town. The drug store became a thriving business where Jerry employed all seven of his children and taught them to follow his own strong, demanding work ethic.
In 1957, Jerry married Marie Theresa Ellis after a work-inspired romance at St. Olaf Hospital. Unashamed, Jerry later revealed he often made needless trips to the hospital blood lab just to visit with the lab technician — a tall, striking brunette from Ohio. In 1968, Marie died one month after delivering her seventh child. In 1971, Jerry married Rita Ann Ryan who adopted all seven children and made the Landherr family whole again.
After 47 years of marriage, Rita died of metastatic colon cancer in March 2018. During Rita’s final years of agonizing pain, surgeries and chemotherapy, Jerry transformed into the most dedicated, empathetic and diligent care provider imaginable. His unyielding efforts fulfilled Rita’s earnest desire to die comfortably at home.
In 1978, Landherr Rexall Drug was devastated by the 100-year flood, which also led to extreme financial hardship in order to restore the business. Jerry’s work ethic was hard to fathom and he was steadfast in his mission to again provide for his family. Once the embodiment of strong German stoicism, Jerry slowly revealed his true, loving core and even — eventually — dared to initiate frequent hugs.
Fondly, Jerry would reminisce about his days in the Knights of Columbus and would share photographs of fellow Knights in vibrant, caped uniforms that emitted pageantry and public witness to the faith of Catholic men.
Raising seven children, running his own business and eventually having to endure the death of both wives demanded a strong Catholic faith which Jerry embraced. His home church of Queen of Angels provided stability and purpose at many points in Jerry’s life. Parenting the seven children often proved daunting due to their misadventures and propensity toward delinquency.
In the 1970s, the Landherr children launched an ill-fated attempt to collect money for “Jerry’s Kids” during the Labor Day Jerry Lewis Telethon, but for Jerry Landherr’s kids. In his wise, yet stern response to such shenanigans, Jerry opined: “great enthusiasm — wrong pockets.”
Jerry’s no-nonsense approach to life and endurance through grief and crisis was quietly admired by and embedded in his children. Jerry didn’t preach or lecture; he truly led by example.
Gerald is survived by his children, William (Pat Kohler) Landherr of Minneapolis, Michael (Sarah) Landherr of Austin, Patrick Landherr of Savage, Minn., Michelle (Tom) Halek of Maple Grove, Minn., Andrew (Betsy) Landherr of Lake Elmo, Minn., Kathleen (Chris) Pierson of Ankeny, Iowa, and Kenneth (Shelly) Landherr of Prior Lake, Minn.; sister Jean Fallon of St. Paul; 14 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren and life-long friend John Meany of Rose Creek.
Preceding Jerry in death were his parents, Martin Joseph and Margaret Greene Landherr, sister Mary Ann Berg, first wife Marie Theresa Landherr, second wife Rita Ann Landherr, and a stillborn child.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, at Queen of Angels Church in Austin with Father Dale Tupper and Deacon Paul Tschann presiding. Visitation will be Monday, June 17, at Mayer Funeral Home in Austin from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be visitation one hour before the Mass at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials be made to the Sisters of St. Francis (Assisi Heights) in Rochester, Queen of Angels Church in Austin, or to the charity of choice.