Donald “Pudge” Gerdes, 81, of Onarga, passed away on Friday, November 1, 2019 at his home surrounded by beloved family. He was born August 2, 1938 in Watseka, the son of Dwane and Ozilda (Gagnon) Gerdes and they preceded him in death. Donald married Ramona (Mona) “George” Zirkle on August 1, 1959 in Gilman and they resided in LaHogue.
He is survived by his wife, Mona Gerdes of Onarga; his children, Diane (Larry) Neste of Spooner, WI, Donald (Sherri) Gerdes of Thawville, Becky (Gary Fuoss) Gerdes of Thawville, Kathy (Duane) Menigoz of Onarga, Lisa (Curtis) Bloom of Fisher, and Ronne (Sandy) Gerdes of Rantoul; 14 grandchildren, Heather, Nichole, Erica, Derek, Mandy, Connor, Jake, Brandon, Hilary, Jamie, Danielle, Ashton, Kody, and Kyle; 28 great grandchildren, Kara, Nautica, Harper, Sawyer, Paisley, Kailin, Hadley, Hayden, Austin, Jarrett, Mason, Brooks, Ryan, Christian, Cale, Jacksen, Jolene, Danielle, Ethan, Leighlah, Reece, Piper, Calvin, Owen, Miles, Morgan, Conner, and Natalie; his faithful dog, Molly; two brothers-in-law, Bob (Kay) Zirkle of Onarga and John Zirkle of Woodland; three sisters-in-law, Joan Sterk of Milton, WI, Mary Mulligan of Arlington, TX, and Nina (Tom) Dundas of Clifton; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his step father, Troy Eads; sister, Brenda Champaigne; son-in-law, Jeffrey Bull; father-in-law, Clyde Zirkle; mother-in-law, Mary Zirkle; brother-in-law, Bob Sterk; sister-in-law, Gloria Zirkle; niece, Mary Zirkle; nephews, Danny Zirkle, Eric Sterk, and Tim Zirkle; and his godson, Troy Chayer.
Grandchildren were his joy. He never missed a game or event and loved being a grandpa. He looked forward to every opportunity to see his great grandchildren.
After graduation, Mr. Gerdes went on to farm with his father, he then worked for Don Wrede breaking and training horses and farming. He was a union carpenter in Chicago. He then worked for Ficklin Machine Company and Roeder Grain Elevator. He drove semi-trucks for Ficklin’s and Roeder’s. He then went on to work for the Village of Onarga. He became Superintendent of Public Works after studying at KCC to obtain his class A drinking water operator certification. He retired after 20 years of service to Onarga, at age 70. Pudge was a member of Immaculate Conception/Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Gilman; a born-again Christian. He was also a member of Illiana Ropers & Doggers Association and Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association. First and foremost, he was a genuine cowboy, winning many trophy buckles. He was a longtime team roper as a header. Mr. Gerdes was a coach for little league baseball and later for junior high girls’ softball. He was the Onarga Indian Mascot for two years and lead the teams out at home games. He was quite the craftsman, and a patent holding inventor. He was the biggest prankster around. Pudge was an avid Onarga Indian’s, Chicago Bears and University of Illinois fan. He received the 2003 Citizen of the Year Award and was grand marshal of the 4th of July parade. He loved rodeos, feeding birds, metal detecting, his grandkids and great grandkids, and wintering in SPI, TX.
He was a 1956 graduate of Gilman High School and participated in football, track, choir, and marching band. His nickname from birth on was Pudge.
Visitation will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., on Saturday, November 9, 2019 at Knapp-Redenius Funeral Home in Gilman. Funeral service will be at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, November 9, 2019 also at the funeral home. Fr. Marek Herbut will officiate. Burial will be at the Onarga Cemetery at a later date.
Memorials may be made to Iroquois Memorial Hospice.
Please share a memory of Donald at www.knappfuneralhomes.com