The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


August 14, 2012

Gerhart A. Kopf

FULTON, Ill. — Gerhart A. Kopf

Dec. 29, 1919 - Aug. 10, 2012

Gerhart A. Kopf, 92, of Fulton, IL, died Friday, August 10, 2012, at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, IA. Born at home in Eddyville, Nebraska, December 29, 1919, the oldest of 6 children of Niels and Lydia Struempler Kopf. He married Alice L. Schmidt on July 7, 1941; she survives. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a large family gathering in 2011.

Children include Connie (Dean) Long of Mankato, Minnesota; Trudy (Michael) Landwirth of Peoria, Illinois; Pamela (Glenn) Gealy of Columbia, Maryland; Kyle (Kim) of Florida; and Kendall at home.  Also surviving are grandchildren Christina and Joseph (Marie) Long; Amy Landwirth; Matthew and Rachel Gealy; and Kelly, Scott, and Nicholas Kopf, as well as great-grandson Orion Long. Gerry’s parents and brothers Ferdinand, Donald, and Aaron, and sister Arleen preceded him in death. He is survived by his sister Dolores and many nieces and nephews.

Gerry was raised on a homestead ranch in Dawson County, NE. His grandfather, Nick Kopf, was known for cattle drives between the ranch and Texas. He and his siblings walked over one mile of roads and pastures to the one-room school through 8th grade.

Gerry helped raise Hereford cattle and farmed with horses on the prairie sod ranch. He attended Lexington High School and was active as a tackle on the football team, participated in operetta productions, and provided artwork for the yearbook. He developed his gift to play piano, preferring to learn new songs by ear rather than by reading sheet music.

He attended Univ. of Nebraska for one semester before returning to the ranch during The Great Depression. Gerry remained an ardent Nebraska Cornhusker fan throughout his long life. He played piano just out of high school in a traveling swing band across the Midwest during the Big Band Era.

He served in the Army at Ft. Dodge, Iowa, during World War II, and farmed near Eddyville, NE, 1941-8. After one profitable year, he left farming to work with Steckley Hybrid Corn Co. in Lincoln and Grand Island, NE, eventually serving as company sales manager. He relocated with his family to Fulton, IL, in 1955 in the same position where he also became involved with hybrid corn development at their Dewitt, IA, plant.

Upon sale of the company, he became sales manager of Drives, Inc., until 1981. In this position he traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada, through a period of major growth for the company.

In 1981, he established the Bald Eagle Nursery outside Fulton, where, building upon his knowledge of corn genetics and hybridization, he became respected as an authority on ornamental grasses, as well as chestnuts, hazelnuts, and hicans. He worked with nationally respected researchers on hicans (Abbott tree), helping to get Abbott tree seeds shared with The People’s Republic of China in a horticultural exchange program.

Gerry loved to travel and throughout his life he would bring home plant specimens for local propagation. He was instrumental in developing the Twin Ponds Research Farm near Galena Territory, specializing in the genetic development of hazelnuts and grasses as potential alternative biofuel sources 2000-6.

He focused his energies on beautifying the Fulton landscape and gardens.  He planted thousands of daffodils on South 4th Street in Fulton and  established and maintained tulip beds along 14th Avenue with the help of many community volunteers. He beautified Melody Hills in Fulton during its development, planting hundreds of trees and personally designing and constructing stone walls and landscaping.   He also landscaped the Fulton windmill site, which later became Den Besten Park..

Gerry was respected as an advocate and expert on bluebirds, having documented the fledging of over 150 bluebirds in one spring season, in bird houses built and maintained by him at the Twin Ponds Research Center. He also shared his knowledge of chimney swift migration and lectured locally on such topics as Fulton geology history.

He served on the Fulton School Board and as elder at St. John Lutheran Church. He was honored as Grand Marshal of the 2001 Dutch Days Festivities for his contributions to the beautification of the City of Fulton and was awarded a key to the city.

Throughout his life Gerry continued to play piano in venues such as Bush’s Café, Clinton Country Club, and Fulton Sr. Citizen’s Center, recently wishing that he still had a “gig.”

He fully appreciated fine wine and dining, especially New Orleans cuisine.  

Gerry greatly looked forward to his Euchre games at Cousins Subs in Fulton. His upbeat mood was evidence of a good Euchre day. He took great pride in becoming co-champion of their 3rd Annual Euchre Tournament January 2011.

He was looked to as the patriarch of a large extended family, and spent many hours recording and sharing family genealogy, with the help of his daughter Pam. In later years, he remained active with courage despite numerous physical challenges.

He was a beloved husband and father, instilling in his children a standard of self-sufficiency, excellence, hard work, and obligation to do the right thing. Gerry was extremely proud of the many accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by all.

A memorial service will be held in the coming weeks. Cremation rites have been accorded.

Memorials may be made for Fulton beautification to FACE (Fulton Association for Community Enrichment), Attn: Gerry Kopf  Fund, P.O. Box 292, Fulton, IL 61252; Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Development Department, 600 Hoffmann Drive, Watertown, WI 53094; Christ Lutheran Cemetery, Attn: Maynard Struempler, 78020 Lodi Road, Oconto, NE 68860-1236; or The American Heart Association.

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Death date: Aug. 10, 2012

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