Gerald “Gerry” Osendorf, 77, of Melrose, passed away unexpectedly at his home Dec. 15, 2020. 

A funeral Mass will be led by Rev. Dan Walz at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Freeport at a future date.  

Gerald John Osendorf was born at home in Melrose, Dec. 18, 1942, in the middle of a snowstorm. His parents were Frank and Frances (Rohlik) Osendorf. Gerry was the second of five children. He was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. He graduated from Melrose High School in 1961. Gerry earned his master’s degree from St. Cloud State University where he was awarded his teaching credentials in physical education and English. He taught in Fridley for one year and at Melrose High School for 33 years. He was a lifelong learner whose passion was history. 

Gerry was united in marriage to Shirley Ruzicka June 6, 1970, at Sacred Heart Church in Minto, North Dakota. Gerry and Shirley celebrated 50 years of marriage this past summer. They resided in Melrose, where they raised their three daughters.  

At a young age, Gerry learned money did not grow on trees. At age 13, he constructed a lawn mower trailer he towed behind his bike so he could make money mowing lawns. He had a paper route, and his college fund came from working at The Produce and hauling milk for Fritz Uphus. He was passionate about pruning tees, learning from Wendell “Windy” Rausch. (Guess who was at the top of the tree?) For 50 years Gerry, known as the “Tree Tamer,” owned and operated a tree removal and trimming business and Little Birch Repair, a small engine repair business. He also operated a snow removal business for 13 years, sometimes taking his daughters along with, which was a highlight for them.

Gerry will long be remembered as a man of strong character, a firm handshake and ready smile. His many great traits included loyalty, generosity and a spirit of adventure. He believed in traditional values and his therapy was hard work and being outdoors. Work was like play to him, especially if it involved trees, power tools or teaching someone a new skill. Play meant sports, woodworking, traveling, driving a tour bus, and – best of all – snowmobiling. Gerry could find the fun in any situation, and he knew challenges were temporary. His motto was “You may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit.” He loved to help others and never counted the cost. He liked to spread anonymous gift cards around the community for those in need, and he would be the first to pick up the check when he joined friends for coffee and good conversation. Gerry did not take life for granted, and he was an inspiration to many.

Gerry was a man for all seasons, but winter was by far his favorite. He enjoyed living in Minnesota and never complained about the snow and cold. He appreciated living in America and never took liberty and freedom of religion for granted. His Catholic faith was his rock. If he had to be inside, he felt most at home in his sacred and historic church. His faithfulness extended to his family, which he dearly loved with all his heart; his many friends who could always count on him; his former students, hundreds of whom have described him as a mentor and a teacher who made a difference in their lives; and, of course, the Ford brand. Loyalty was Gerry’s defining quality. He accepted people as they were and tried to see the good in all. He did not hold grudges because he seemed to know instinctively that we are all human beings. Gerry was so physically strong it seemed like he would survive forever, but his big heart finally gave out and though his passing has broken the hearts of his family and community, he taught us all to “keep on trucking” – as long as it’s in a Ford.

Gerry is survived by his wife, Shirley; three daughters Melissa (Michael) Allard, Dawn (Fabian) Hendricks and Rachel Marie Osendorf; grandson Cole “Little Treasure” Allard; canine companion Annie; siblings Frank (Jean) Osendorf of St. Joseph, Larry Osendorf of Melrose, Carleen (Pat) Beckermann of Centerville, Ohio, and Marilyn Hasselbeck of Centerville, Ohio; and many nieces and nephews. 

Gerry was preceded in death by his parents and an unborn son. 

Gerry Osendorf lived to the age of 77 years, 11 months and 27 days. May his memory be blessed and his good works endure. As Gerry would say, “All you can take with you is what you give away.”             P-53-1B