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James Louis Gerke was born on September 5, 1946, to Thomasine (Jessee) and John Harding Gerke in Chicago, Illinois.
He moved to California as a young boy, and joined the Army at the age of 17. He served more than 24 years in the military and did multiple tours in Vietnam. He was highly decorated and awarded many honors and medals, including several purple hearts, during the course of his service. Perhaps the most rewarding of these medals being in the form of three of his nephews (David, Curtis, and Jonathan) who joined the Army, proudly following in the footsteps of the "Hero" they knew and loved.
When he retired from the Army, Jim moved to Newcastle and worked at the sawmill for many years as a guard for the Pinkertons. He loved the area, was an avid hunter, and was a true native at heart of the great state of Wyoming. He loved his township and the people in it, and could always be seen daily at one of the local diners enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee with someone, be it a friend or a stranger.
He was an honorable man, always quick to speak up against injustice, and generous to a fault, often putting himself in hardship to help someone in need. He loved children, and, notably, they loved him. He enjoyed their inquisitive nature and delighted in seeing their faces break into smiles and laughter at the tall tales he was always telling them. He also had a soft spot for dogs; most particularly, Sam his beloved pit bull, and the two were inseparable until Sam's death. Anyone who knew Jim surely has a Sam story in their catalog of memories.
Jim wore many hats in his lifetime. But one thing stands out as the core of who he was and influenced every other area of his life. He was, first and last, a soldier: Master Sergeant James Louis Gerke, United States Army.
He will be truly missed and always loved.
Considering the loyalty and respect he felt so deeply for his country, for every fallen patriot, and every veteran, he was laid to rest with Military Honors by the American Legion, appropriately on December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day), in the Andersen family cemetery, Redbird Canyon, SD.
He is preceded in death by his parents, the love of his life whom he met and married in Vietnam, and his daughter, Xin.
He is survived by two brothers, Dan Gerke and Don Nelson; two sisters, Cheryl DiQuisto and Cynthia DiRaimondo; son, Charles Gerke and numerous grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends.
Condolences can be sent to the Gerke family
c/o David and Tera Stevens
10258 Valley Road
Edgemont, SD 57735
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