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A century of memories Rita Gerner to observe 100th birthday

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Rita Gerner

Rita Gerner will observe her 100th birthday on Aug. 19. A card shower is planned in her honor. Cards may be addressed to her at:

28429 Great River Rd.

Guttenberg IA 52052

* * *

Rita was born Aug. 19, 1923, to Benjamin and Gertrude Meyer at home near Garber. There were two children in the family —her older brother, Clarence, and Rita.

Rita walked to country school from first to eighth grade. She attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School for ninth and tenth grade where she boarded at the home of her aunt, Evelyn Lynch, just outside of Garnavillo.    

Rita finished 11th and 12th grade at Immaculate Conception Academy in Dubuque. She had to wear a uniform — it was an all-girls’ school taught by nuns. She liked to play baseball and was good at ice skating.  

Rita drove a tractor when she was young and taught herself how to drive a car. She helped milk cows at an early age, and her family always had eggs for sale.  She remembers selling eggs for $.25/dozen, delivered.  

Rita’s mother played the organ for 25 years at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Garber.  Rita sang with her mom on Sundays and for funerals.  Her Grandpa Joseph Meyer donated toward the stations of the cross there.  Her parents, Ben and Gertie, donated the tabernacle.  

Rita met Al Gerner at Lakeside Balltoom in Guttenberg. She remembers that she wore a pretty dress and caught Al’s eye.  They were married June 6, 1946.  They enjoyed going to dances at Lakeside and Plagman Barn.  Rita remembers listening to Lawrence Welk at the Plagman Barn.  

They raised eight children:  David, Doris, Betty, Richard, Karen, Joan, Jim and Loras.  

Her mother, Gertrude, lived with Rita her entire life.  Gertrude was a great help in caring for the children.  Her mom taught her how to make bread and coffee cake.  Every Sunday the family packed into the car to go to church. David would lay in the back window as the car was full.  The family frequently went to North Buena Vista to visit with Al’s relatives —  where the men played euchre or poker and the women cooked up a big meal. 

The family milked cows and raised crops. There was always a big garden with potatoes, sweet corn, strawberries and vegetables. Many lugs of peaches and cherries were purchased and canned.  Al and Rita made the best homemade sausage which Al smoked in the smokehouse. Many of the kids and grandkids helped crank the sausage stuffer.  Countless delicious apple pies were made from the apple tree in the yard.

In July 1988, Al had an appointment in Dubuque. Rita was driving on Highway 52, and Al had a stroke.  Rita stopped at a business and an ambulance was called.  Al died enroute to the hospital.  Al liked to fish, milk cows, play cards and combine corn.  There were married 42 years; Al was 63 years old at the time of his death. 

In 1994, Rita moved off the home farm to live with Richard at another farm.  She enjoyed feeding the cats and kittens.

Rita’s Catholic faith was of importance in her life., and she was sad the day S. Michael’s had its last mass on Sept. 14, 2003.  However, Rita celebrated her 80th birthday in August 2003 with a mass and a party in the church basement.  Rita was proud to be a parishioner of St. Michael’s for 80 years.

Another big highlight was traveling to Florida to visit her brother, Clarence.  She got to see the ocean, Sea World, and other Orlando sites. 

She milked cows until she was 85 and drove a car until she was 95. It took several times to renew her license the last time, but she would not give up until she passed!

Rita moved to Guttenberg last year.  She has 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren and one angel great-grandson.   

Rita will celebrate her 100th birthday with a family dinner at Breitbach’s in Balltown. — Story submitted by the family

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