July 11, 2023 at 8:05 a.m.

A life laughing together

Mayers honored as Freeport festival grand marshals

By CAROL MOORMAN | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Flowers adorn the outside of Jerry and Mary Mayers’ Freeport home. Jerry takes care of the geraniums and Mary the rest. Some are gifted to them by their children. 

“The geraniums are my favorite, and as you can see, they look pretty good,” Jerry said proudly. “I’m learning to like flowers.”

Jerry placed a moisture tester in the dirt of the planters and pots July 6 to determine if they need watering; some do and some do not. The gauge he received as a gift is one of the best tools in his gardening toolbox.

For close to 55 years the Mayers have been working – and laughing – together. That is evident as they talk about their life together, living in the same house in Freeport where Mary was raised. Among the topics are the volunteering both have done in the community. Mary said Jerry volunteers at Sacred Heart School and Sacred Heart Church. 

“I helped put in new windows at the school and pour the ribbons in the cemetery, and when they built the gym, I helped with whatever they needed,” said Jerry, mentioning just a few of the projects he continues to help with.  

Mary is Grandma Mary at Sacred Heart School, which she attended growing up in Freeport. 

“I volunteer in the kindergarten classroom, and I haven’t graduated yet from kindergarten because I’m still there after 14 years,” she said laughing. 

It’s the same parochial school their five children attended – Michael, of Albany; Amy Hoeschen and Heidi Hollenkamp, of Freeport; Rachel Von Wahlde, of Melrose, and Brian, of Chicago, Illinois. Some of their 10 grandchildren also are SHS alumni.

For their service to the Freeport community the Mayers have been named this year’s Sacred Heart Parish Festival grand marshals and will lead off the 10:30 a.m. parade, Sunday, July 16. Two of their grandchildren will carry the festival banner. 

Little more than a month later they will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary Aug. 31. 

They first met at Charlie’s café, thanks to Mary’s friend, who spied Jerry, who was raised in New Munich, sitting at the counter. 

“She hollered for him to come over, and that pretty much started it,” Mary said. 

Like many people in those days they spent a fair share of their time together at the New Munich Ballroom. 

“It’s a shame it’s gone,” Mary said. 

Jerry talks about when he worked in the Twin Cities and if he told people he was from New Munich, they knew where that was because of the ballroom. 

“Everybody went to either a wedding, shower dance or some type of entertainment at the New Munich Ballroom, and they brought in people like Lawrence Welk to perform,” Jerry said. “Just think of how many hours of entertainment there was, and how many drops of sweat were dropped on that ballroom floor.” 

Mary talks about being in awe when she met Johnny Holm, who was a regular performer at the ballroom, when she worked at Walmart. 

Jerry thawed a frozen pipe for local entertainer Bobby Vee. 

He can fix everything and anything, Mary said. For more than 30 years he owned Mayers Repair in Farming, with his brother. They also welded some unique decor.   

“We made trees and shipped them to Washington, D.C., I believe into a shopping mall. Some were 20 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter,” Jerry said. 

Much of their repair work was on farm machinery. 

“Spring was busy but fall harvest time got busy too,” he said. 

Jerry talks about an antique tractor he has that needs work.

“It needs to find a new home,” Mary said laughing, but Jerry begs to differ.

“I’ll get it running,” he said. 

Mention the word retired, and Jerry, throwing his hands in the air, says,  “It’s not important.” 

“I’m retired but not retired,” he said.

“If somebody needs help, they call Jerry Mayers,” Mary said. 

Turning 79 this year, he appreciates every day, and he smiles again when it is mentioned he robbed the cradle, marrying Mary who is 73.  

Talk turns to his grave digging years from 1978 to 2021. Just don’t ask him how many he has dug.   

“They needed a grave digger in New Munich until they found a new one, and they never found a new one,” Jerry said. 

At first he dug graves by hand, until he converted an old combine into a grave digging machine that made the rounds at area cemeteries from Greenwald to Albany. He finagled a conveyor onto the combine which helped push the dirt from the ground into a truck, and after the burial, he placed the dirt back into the grave. 

Grave digging, which he did all year around, started with a call from a funeral director. 

“I dug many a grave when it was 20 below,” he said.

Going at a top speed of 15 mph, he drove the grave digging machine to a cemetery, and Mary followed in the car to drive him back home. If everything went right, it took close to 45 minutes to dig a grave, depending on the time of the year. 

“Sometimes it took me longer to find the grave then to dig it,” he said. “I made many a call to Bernie Schad (funeral director) and the parish priest to find out where a tombstone was.” 

He dug graves one “shovel handle” deep, so 4- to 5-feet deep, he said. 

“People would come to the cemetery just to watch me dig,” he said.

Chances are many people will flock to Freeport Sunday for the festival. The Mayers are looking forward to riding in the parade. 

“We were totally surprised,” Mary said of their grand marshal honor. 

Freeport is a town they are happy to call home – a home filled with flowers and laughter.   


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