Saturday, July 06, 2002

Obituary: Elmer Gerner was WWII vet


He had 2 Purple Hearts, admiration of family

By Rebecca Billman, rbillman@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Elmer Gerner defied death three times while fighting the Japanese during World War II.

        The two-time Purple Heart recipient had just hoisted himself out of a foxhole when a grenade exploded inside, killing all the other occupants. He took shrapnel in his back and legs, was patched up in a field hospital and returned immediately to the battlefield.

        Two days later he was aiming his rifle when the barrel was split by an incoming bullet that also blew off the middle finger of his right hand. Mr. Gerner lay in the field hospital holding his finger to his hand for four hours before doctors reattached it.

        His third close call came when he was talking to a companion who was shot and killed in mid-sentence.

        “It appears that my dad was meant to live and become the patriarch of our family,” said his son David of Fort Thomas.

        In addition to the Purple Hearts, Mr. Gerner received the Bronze Star with a “V” for valor.

        Mr. Gerner, 82, died Sunday at St. Elizabeth South Hospital in Edgewood, 10 months after the death of Mary Catherine Flynn Gerner, his wife of 60 years.

        “Dad's doctors say he died from pulmonary toxicity or interstitial pneumonitis,” his son said, “but we all know that he really died from a broken heart.”

        Mr. Gerner was a man of simple tastes and enduring faith.

        He lived on the same street in Newport for 77 years, moving to Highland Heights only five years ago.

        He liked flowers, walking his dog and looking at the stars.

        He raised seven children, putting them through Catholic schools, while working as a radio/TV repairman.

        He was handy and willing to take on most any job, including digging out a basement under his house by hand.

        Mr. Gerner “never paid a professional contractor in his life,” his son said. “Growing up we thought Elmer's Glue was named after my dad.”

        When each of his children bought their first homes, he painted and wallpapered and “fixed every leaky faucet and toilet and scraped gook out of evey clogged drain,” his son said.

        He helped extended family, too, taking several relatives into his home and caring for them when they became bedridden. He even worked in his brother-in-law's grocery store for three years with no pay.

        Mr. Gerner was a parishioner at St. Stephen's Church for more than 75 years, serving as Eucharistic minister, lector and usher and often attending all three Sunday Masses and the benediction.

        Since his wife's death last summer, Mr. Gerner often said he wished to be with Mary again.

        In addition to his son, David, survivors include four daughters, Cathy Borman and Ann Gerner, both of Cold Spring, Judith M. Bricking of Highland Heights, and Barbara Kearns of Southgate; two other sons, James C Gerner of Highland Heights and John A. Gerner of Southgate; a sister, Rita Runyan of Highland Heights; a brother, Raymond Gerner of Cold Spring; 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

        The service has been held. Burial was St. Stephen Cemetery in Fort Thomas.

        Memorials: American Heart Association 2936 Vernon Pl., Cincinnati 45219-9932.

       

       



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