Gerald Rasmussen 1926-2013:
This is the obituary as it appeared today in the Eugene Register-Guard.
Gerald Rasmussen passed away at home on Love Lake Farm, east of Junction City, on September 30. He was 87.
Gerry was born on July 18, 1926 to Hans and Helga (nee Bodtker) Rasmussen in a hospital in Eugene. He was raised in Junction City among the Danish immigrant community there. As a child, he attended Junction City schools, Dane School in the summers, and worked at Hans Rasmussen’s feed and seed store. He graduated from Junction City High School in 1944.
In July of 1944 Gerry joined the U.S. Navy. He was in training as a signalman for the Pacific Theater when the Second World War ended and was among the first occupation forces in Japan immediately after the war where he served as a signalman at the mouth of Tokyo Bay directing ship traffic. His time in Japan was the topic of his short monograph Remembering Japan, which his granddaughter Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein helped design, proof and produce.
After the war, Gerry returned to Lane County and attended the University of Oregon. In 1947 Gerry attended Grand View College – a Danish Lutheran junior College in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1948 Gerry travelled to Denmark where he attended Askov Folk School for a year. There he met Sigrid Pedersen, a native of Skive, Denmark, whom he married in Skive on July 24, 1949. After honeymooning in England and Wales, Gerry and Sigrid moved to Junction City.
Gerry finished his BA at the University of Oregon in 1951 and thereafter taught at public schools in Redmond and Albany. In 1957 Gerry accepted a position teaching history at Grand View College. While teaching at Grand View College he completed his MA at the University of Oregon in history. In 1963, Gerry was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and he and Sigrid and their four children moved to Denmark where Gerry taught at several Danish Teachers Colleges. After a year in Denmark, the Rasmussens moved to Kelso, Washington, where Gerry taught at Lower Columbia College.
In 1965, Gerry was hired at Lane Community College, and thus was among the earliest staff at LCC. In his long career at LCC, Gerry was a teacher, department chair, Associate Dean, Dean, Vice President and Interim President. He was instrumental in moving the college to the large campus, in creating the women’s study program and the black studies program in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and in helping guide the growth of LCC from a small, new community college to a nationally recognized community college. Gerry retired from LCC as Vice President of Instruction in 1986. He took great pride and pleasure in his role in helping to create a vibrant new institution that still serves the community in so many ways.
For many years Gerry served on many local and statewide boards and commissions including as a Commissioner of Oregon Public Broadcasting, Founder, Vice-President and later President of the Danish American Heritage Society, and Board member of the Junction City Historical Society, to name a few. Gerry served on numerous Community College accreditation teams and was especially proud of his role in accrediting several Tribal Community Colleges in Montana and Idaho. He was a long time member of the Danish Brotherhood.
Both before and after retirement, Gerry enjoyed annual summer camping trips with family all over Oregon especially in many remote places. He also loved politics, singing folk songs, reading and studying history, and swimming in outdoor bodies of water regardless of the time of year. Gerry was a lifelong and unapologetic new deal democrat, and always enjoyed political discussion. He was an early supporter and worker in the civil rights movement in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. His incisive political conversation and commentary was always informed by a deep understanding of U. S. history.
In retirement, Gerry continued his many loves and adventures, writing his book Oregon Danish Colony about the Danish immigrant community in Junction City, lobbying for community colleges with the Oregon Community College Association in Salem. He also enjoyed taking many trips with family and especially his wife Sigrid to Denmark, Norway, the Baltic states, remote places in Oregon and other unique locales, and spending time with family, especially his wife and grandchildren. He also continued his ardent bread baking hobby, and was the proud winner of several ribbons for bread baking at the Lane County Fair.
Gerry loved the outdoors, birds, dogs, history in general and US history in particular, and American folk music. He passed these loves along to his children and his wife. Gerry was a lover of adventure, was curious and cheerful, and occasionally mischievous. Perhaps above all, Gerry enjoyed genuine conversation. Gerry and his conversation and reminiscences will be missed by his family and his many friends.
Gerry is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sigrid; daughter, Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor at Duke University; daughter, Sonja Rasmussen, Coordinator of the Mills International Center at the University of Oregon (the late Steve Larson, Professor of music at the U of O); son, Karsten Rasmussen, Lane County Circuit Court Judge (Christine Lewandowski, retired OLCC commissioner); and daughter, Alis Rasmussen, author of 21 published novels [writing as Kate Elliot] (Jay Silverstein, Dept of Defense, GIS & Data Integrity Section Chief, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command); and by grandchildren: Carolee Scott, Robert Dickson, Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, Arnbjørn Stokholm, Alexander Rasmussen-Silverstein, David Rasmussen- Silverstein, Ethan Rasmussen, and Hannah Larson.
In the Danish American community of Gerry’s youth, at the end of many gatherings people traditionally sang – in Danish – a song of farewell, the first verse of which, translated, is:
ONWARD On your way! Be brave and true! Should the road seem endless,
Walk where God is near and you Never can be friendless
Gerry believed that what matters in life is integrity in our relationships with our fellow human beings and he placed his faith in our shared humanity.
My father served in WWII, too, in the Navy, first in the Atlantic, and then in the Pacific. I wonder if they ever met.
Your love for your father comes through so clearly every time you talk about conversations you’ve had with him over the years.
May the memory of those conversations lighten the grief.
What a wonderful description of a fulfilled human being! Why do we have to wait for an obituary to learn of the depth of a person? How sorry I am that we did not make the opportunity to meet more than once or twice. I would have enjoyed so much spending some time with your father! You are a true daughter of this remarkable man.
What an amazing man! You’re lucky to have had him as a father 🙂
What a lovely obituary. And what an amazing man. I am sorry for your loss.
Such a full and wonderful life. Thank you for sharing this.
Who knows? My dad was a signalman. He was still in training when the war ended, so he did his service in the occupation of Japan.
Thank you, Aunt Syl. Much love to you.
Yeah, actually, I am. 🙂
Also why so many positive father figures appear in my novels . . .
Thank you. ANd thank you for stopping by.
I lost my much loved father last year, so can understand the depth of your loss. my heartfelt condolences to you and all your family at this difficult time.
Thank you so much. And condolences on your own loss. I think I’m still kind of in shock even though this was expected (cancer) and even though he was 87. In a way I suppose I thought he would just go on forever.
Just heard of Uncle Gerry’s passing. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute you have written! I have fond memories of staying at Love Lake Farm and the wonderful smell of books and featherbeds! Always a kind-hearted man. Blessings to you and your family—Sarah (Daughter of Frances Rasmussen)
I am so sorry for your loss. Our family is just now hearing about cousin Jerry’s passing. It seems that cousin Jerry has always been there and the loss seems very great. When we had the Rasmussen family reunions at “the farm” on Dane Lane, it was always fun, filled with stories and laughter. When in grade school I remember getting into a row boat on love lake and playing with the rest of my cousins. Later on in life I was asked to take care of their home while helping Ann Marie move to become established at Duke University. We counted it a privilege and enjoyed living there in the farm house for the brief time. I know that Aunt Emma gave cousin Jerry the Danish Family Bible. She said that he was the only one of the cousins that could read it! I am so sorry that we have just heard about his passing. Our heartfelt love goes out to you Sigrid and your children.
I’m so sorry you weren’t contacted. Thank you so much for stopping by here.
Frances, thank you so much for sharing those lovely memories. I’m sorry that you weren’t contacted at the time.