Eulogy for Marland D. Gerber
August 03, 2016
by Rev. John Partridge
None of us expected this.
Of course we all know that none of us will live forever, but this is not where any of us planned to be a week or so ago. When I heard that Marland Gerber had passed from this life and into the next, I was stunned. I had just seen him at church recently. He was doing better than he had been in months. And so, just when we thought he was getting better, we got a phone call, or a text, that we didn’t expect. But after the shock wore off, those of us who knew Marland realized one thing:
We are poorer today than we were last week.
As my wife and I met with the extended Gerber family Monday evening, we listened as, one after another, they told us what they remembered, and what Marland had meant to them. The praise was abundant. If he had been there, he would have been embarrassed to hear it, but it was all true. Someone said that “Nobody laughs like Santa.” He was described as loving, caring, always ready to listen, the best ever, amazing, a very hard worker, a man who always took pride in what he did, a man who lit up the room wherever he went, and more. Marland was a giving person who was always ready to give what he had. He tried to provide for everyone and make sure that no one wanted for anything. He was willing to give the shirt off of his back, and sometimes he gave more than he could really afford.
Marland was also a lover in the best possible sense of the word. He loved Eileen with all his heart and would anything for her. He did give her a hard time for cooking too much, but didn’t complain when it was his turn to eat. That love wasn’t just reserved for Eileen. For Marland, every family member was unique and special and he had his own way to make every single one of them feel loved and valued. He teased the younger kids by showing them his false teeth, told bad jokes until everyone had them memorized (ask any of them why God’s name is Andy), had pet names for some, asked about their lives, bragged about all of them, gave words of encouragement whenever they were needed but could give you a hard time of you needed that, and Marland showed up for everything. For Marland, “family” was an event. He took his grandkids on trips and made sure that they did things together and he came to their games. Not just a few, but all of them. Football games, baseball games, wrestling tournaments, dance recitals, you name it, if one of his family or friends were in it, he would do his best to be there to watch. That dedication extended beyond his family, because over the years as he attended all of those games, he made friends with the other kids, their families, the coaches, and everyone else, so that even when his kids graduated and moved on, Marland was still going to those games to cheer on his new friends. Of course it’s always more fun to watch when your team wins, and Timmy said that Marland absolutely lit up when the Perry wrestling team won two state finals.
But watching his family and friends wasn’t all that Marland did. He loved sports. All sports. All the time. I think I heard a rumor that since they heard the news, Sports Center is already warning people that they expect their ratings to be down. It is fairly well-known that Marland liked to yell at the TV while he watched his games. Often he was yelling at the guy with long hair and telling him that if he got a haircut he could run faster. For the really big games, the seats in his living room were reserved and by invitation only. If you weren’t invited, there’s a good chance that you would be asked to leave when the game started. Aside from yelling at the television, because he knew so much about sports and cared so much about people, everyone in his family thinks that Marland would have made a great coach. And it wasn’t just about sports on TV. As I said, Marland supported a great many of the teams in Perry, but he and Eileen also bought season tickets to the Canton Charge games. The funny thing is, the two of them make friends so easily, that after going downtown week after week, before long they made friends with the guy that gave away free stuff. And then, pretty soon, instead of getting one towel, they got a bunch of towels. Instead of getting one bobble-head, they came home with a box of bobble heads.
Wherever Marland went, he had friends. Our church is full of his friends. The Sugarcreek Methodist Church is full of his friends. The Elks and the Eagles are full of his friends. And the entire campground at Atwood Lake is full of his friends. When they heard that Marland had died, and that Eileen was at their camper, over a hundred people stopped by to pay their respects and express their condolences.
DJ put it this way: “He never had a bad thing to say about anyone and I would venture to say that no one could say a bad thing about him. He would always greet people as if they were old friends. He had a generosity of spirit that is rarely found in today’s society. All were welcome at his table. He was always such a giving man. I am proud to have called him grandpa (poppy). I will continue to strive to follow the example that such a great person has laid out for me.”
Marland called Denise (who he called Neesie) every Friday. And every week he was genuinely interested in her life. He would ask, “How are you?” “Where are you?” And when he asked her, just as when he asked everyone else these sorts of things, you could tell that he really cared about the answers.
Among those gathered with the family on Monday night, were several people who are not, nor have they ever been, genetically related. But at different times, for different reasons, under different circumstances, Marland and Eileen did what they have always done. They loved people. And along the way, these folks were just adopted into the family and accepted and one of their own. For them, Marland and Eileen became their parents.
I told you at the beginning that Marland was a lover in the best sense of the word. He loved people. He loved hugs. It was hard for us to watch the pain that he was enduring for the last few years, but he never made an issue of it. He didn’t get grumpy or lash out at people because he cared about them more than he cared about himself. The other night someone said that he would never talk back, even in his own defense, because he didn’t want to hurt someone else. Instead of getting angry, he just got hurt that other people were so wounded that they had to lash out at others. And so his way of making them feel better, was just to take it without fighting back. As a result, someone at the campground told one of his kids, “Your dad taught me how to be a man.”
And so after the shock wears off, those of us who knew Marland realized something.
We are poorer today than we were last week.
But that isn’t all that there is.
Marland Gerber was a lover in the best sense of the word. He loved his family, he loved his friends, and honestly, I think he loved almost everyone. I’ve shared a lot of things this morning, but the thing that ties them all together is love. The thing that we will all remember, the thing that made Marland so special, is that everywhere Marland went, he made the people around him better than they were before.
We are better than we were before… because we were loved by this special and unique man.
And because of that, although we are poorer than we were last week, we are all extraordinarily rich.
Marland D. Gerber
September 16, 1938 – July 30, 2016
Marland D. Gerber 77 of Massillon and formerly of Sugarcreek died Saturday, July 30, 2016 at Union Hospital unexpectedly. He was born September 16, 1938 in Walnut Creek to the late Ura and Mary (Weaver) Gerber.
He retired from Andreas Furniture in Sugarcreek in 1999 after 32 years. He was a member of the Sugarcreek United Methodist Church for over 40 years before becoming a member of Trinity United Methodist Church at Massillon. He was a member of Aerie of the Elks 510 in New Philadelphia and the Eagles 2370 in Canton.
He enjoyed spending most of his time at Atwood Lake-surrounded by his wife, family and friends; especially his close friends Joe and Denise Mutchler and Bobbi Ries. He cherished nothing more than the company of his 6 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren. He loved all sports, whether he was able to attend them in person or watching on TV.
He is survived by his wife, the former Eileen Doney whom he married on August 2, 1958; his two children Marla (Tim) Armstrong of Massillon and Rick (Trish) Gerber of Sugarcreek, 6 grandchildren Tara (Brandon) Lilly of Streetsboro, Dawn (Kenneth) Boudrie of Massillon, Jonathan Gerber of Sugarcreek, DJ (Stacy) Digianantonio of Alliance, Jeremy Gerber of Sugarcreek and Timmy Armstrong of Massillon, 5 great grandchildren Tyler, Austin, Lucas, Gianna and Conner and was looking forward to the arrival of his newest great grandson. In addition to his parents he is preceded in death by his sister Rhea Winkler.
Services will be held on Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 11:00 AM at Smith-Varns Funeral Home 115 Andreas Drive in Sugarcreek with Pastor John Partridge officiating. Friends may call on Tuesday 2-4 and 6-8 PM at the funeral home. Memorial services will be conducted by the Elks Lodge from New Philadelphia on Tuesday at 8:00 PM at the conclusion of calling hours.