Dr. Gerald Lawrence Wathier, age 82, of Phoenix, Arizona, formerly of Standish, Michigan departed this life November 5, 2021. Jerry passed peacefully, surrounded by his loving children, after an extended and heroic battle stemming from long-standing complications of COVID-19 which he contracted in December 2020.
Gerald was born April 15, 1939 in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Dr. Lawrence Nicholas and Madeleine “Babe” (Goering) Wathier. He was raised in the small-town of Geneseo, Illinois where his father was the town doctor. Jerry would share stories of making house calls with his father and how he was paid with eggs and chickens. He graduated from Geneseo Senior High School in 1957, and he attended the University of Iowa where he completed his pre-medicine requirements and met his wife to be, Sharon Oeschger. An avid college sports fan, Jerry spent many long hours calling not only his son Chris and brother Lyle, but his many friends spread throughout the country, rehashing game plays and poor referee calls. He rarely missed a Saturday afternoon football game cheering on his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes.
In 1961, Jerry married Sharon in Geneseo, Illinois. Soon after, the rigors of medical school began. School during the day, stocking grocery store shelves at night, and still not feeling busy enough, Sharon and Jerry had 3 little girls in quick succession, Cheryl, Michele, and Susan. After graduating medical school from Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Wathier family moved to Saginaw, Michigan in 1970 for Jerry’s medical internship. A fourth child was brought into the world during that year, their one and only son, Christopher. After completing his internship, Jerry’s first job as a fully trained physician was in Rose City, Michigan. He commuted from the small lake town of Hale, Michigan where the family enjoyed summers swimming and boating on Long Lake and winters snowmobiling. In 1973 the family moved to Standish, Michigan. Then, in 1976, Jerry and Sharon's last child, Tanya, was born. Jerry spent the next 16 years caring for the families of Standish. He truly loved “family medicine” and did it all, including working in the Emergency Room, acting as the Arenac County Medical Examiner, assisting in surgery, and running his own practice. With a compassionate and well-trained ear, along with his keen diagnostic skills, he played an important role in saving many lives over the years. One of his greatest joys was delivering babies, including his youngest daughter, Tanya. Jerry was truly a small-town doc, very similar to his father, and he passed this passion on to two of his children, Cheryl and Chris. As part of being a family doctor, caring for pediatric patients always held a special place in Jerry’s heart. He passed this love of children to his daughter Tanya, who became a kindergarten teacher.
Jerry was very active in the Kiwanis service club in Standish. He also enjoyed coaching his children in basketball and baseball and loved officiating grade school and middle school basketball and touch football games. This was much to the consternation of his son, who by then was coaching one of these elementary teams and somehow never seemed to get the "questionable calls" as the referee (Jerry) protected his record of going undefeated as a coach several years earlier. Jerry also enjoyed the golf league and poker nights which he shared with some lifelong friends. They appointed Jerry as treasurer for his honesty and precise record keeping, since he always figured out the accounting to the exact penny with never a mistake, and this trait he passed on to his daughter Sue. Jerry was like a second father to many of his children’s friends who often praised him for the positive impact he had on their lives. Jerry and Sharon loved to travel and took full benefit of having a daughter Michele in the travel industry, cruising and flying throughout the world.
Next came a short stay as another rural doc in Walnut, Illinois from 1989-1992 where Jerry was an active member of the service organization, Rotary Club. It had been Jerry and Sharon’s lifelong dream to retire to Phoenix and get out of the cold. Earlier than expected, a great job opportunity arose and they moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1992. Unfortunately, the family lost Sharon prematurely to cancer shortly after their move to Phoenix so Jerry and youngest daughter Tanya, only 16 at the time, embarked on a new chapter together. Tanya converted her dad to an ASU Sun Devil fan and they attended many sporting events. Jerry was always known as an active and involved father, proven more so by him being joined in Phoenix by 3 of his children. He cherished his beloved grandchildren who affectionally called him “Papa Doc”. In his twilight years, Jerry’s days were kept busy attending as many of their athletic games, concerts, plays, recitals, and graduations as he possibly could. His calendar was always packed full as he tried to attend every family event no matter how far he had to travel to get there. Throughout the years, Jerry never lost his love for fishing and card games and especially enjoyed these on family vacations.
Those left to cherish Jerry’s memory include his five children, Cheryl (Hollis ‘Sonny’ – Deceased) of Phoenix, Arizona, Michele of Phoenix, Arizona, Susan (Ralph) of Belleville, Michigan, Christopher (Kelly Alexis – Deceased) of Falmouth, Massachusetts, and Tanya (Eric) of Phoenix, Arizona, brother Lyle (Brenda) Wathier of Sarasota, Florida, sister Jacqueline (William) Brokaw of Bolingbrook, Illinois, and eleven grandchildren (Jourdan, Nicholas, Samantha Grace, Hollis Nicholas, Courtney Brooke, Louis, Ben, Abby, Mackenzie, Mason, and Ryan), and many loving nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his wife Sharon Janan Wathier.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Malachy Catholic Church in Geneseo, Illinois on Saturday, November 20, 2021, at 12:00 pm. Father Daniel Gifford will officiate. The service will be livestreamed on the Vandemore Funeral Home Facebook page. Entombment will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery in East Moline, Illinois. A visitation will be held the evening before on Friday, November 19, 2021, from 5–7 pm, followed by a rosary service at 7 pm at Vandemore Funeral Home and Crematory – Geneseo Chapel. The visitation service will be livestreamed on our website (https://www.vandemorefuneralhome.com/live-stream). Memorials may be directed to St. Jude’s Children's Hospital.
Jerry’s children and grandchildren were the center of his life. He will be remembered as a loving and caring father and family man, and a fantastic story teller! He did love to share a good story in exquisite detail and his memory for those elaborations and embellishments was simply unmatched.
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