Gerald I. "Bud" Manken, 96, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, at Van Wert Manor. He was born on September 20, 1925 in Van Wert, Ohio. His parents, James and Velma (Farling) Manken, preceded him in death.
Survivors include a daughter, Mary Beth (Mike) Pelton of Van Wert; a daughter-in-law Eileen Manken of Van Wert; grandchildren Ella Stoller (Jeremy) of Van Wert; Kayla Stiles (Daniel) of Palatine, IL; and Jordan Pelton (Ana) of New Haven, IN. He was also "Paw Paw" to five great grandchildren: Nathan and Whitney Stiles; and Anna, Evan, and Braden Stoller. He also cherished many neighbors and friends who were like family.
Gerald was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Marilyn (Miller) Manken; a son, Michael A. Manken; a granddaughter, Emily L. Pelton; his sister, Phyllis J. Gehres; and his brother, Richard "Dick" E. Manken.
Gerald grew up with his family in York Township in Van Wert County. It baffled his millennial grandchildren that he grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity, but he would just smile and say, "that's the way things were, and well, we didn't know any different!" In 1943, Gerald graduated in a class of 12 students from York High School. All eight boys in his graduating class went off to WWII immediately after high school, and Gerald was proud to say, with a tear in his eye, "we were so fortunate that all eight of us returned home."
Gerald served in the South Pacific theater of WWII in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He trained in Scott Field, IL in radio school, memorizing Morse Code and learning how to take apart, fix, and maintain radio systems. He was the top graduate in his class. Eventually he made it onto the S.S. Lurline with 5,000 other soldiers and sailed under blackout conditions from San Francisco to Papua New Guinea. Although Gerald went overseas with the assignment of being a radio operator, once his troop figured out that he was good at fixing engines, he was reassigned. He grew up repairing old truck engines with his father, so he was excellent at keeping the fuel pure and the engines running, even in the most humid jungle climate. Gerald earned the rank of Sergeant at 19 and was honorably discharged home after the war ended in 1946.
During the war, The Times Bulletin published a list of local folks in service. A young Marilyn Miller noticed a name in the list that she had formerly met on a Saturday evening in downtown Van Wert. She wrote a letter to Gerald Manken to say hello and thank him for his service. As Marilyn would tell the story, "the letters back and forth went from 'sincerely' to 'your friend' to 'truly yours' to eventually 'love." In a story that is truer than the best romance novel, Gerald and Marilyn fell in love by writing letters back and forth during his years in the service, eventually getting married at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Van Wert on September 14, 1947.
Gerald used his money from the G.I. Bill to enroll at The Ohio State University, where he earned a Bachelor's of Science in Education in 1949 and a Master's in Education in 1953. His teaching career began at Willshire High School in 1949, where Gerald and his group of senior metal shop students built the shop from scratch in an empty bus garage.
In 1952, he took a job at Van Wert High School, where he would teach metal shop and wood shop classes until his retirement in 1987. "Now you see," Gerald would say, "They're always my kids. I know all my students are grown up now, and some are even in their 80s! But they'll always be my kids." Gerald was a life-long learner and shared his love of craftsmanship with all of his students, whom he truly loved as his own. He was so proud of every single one, showing albums of vintage square photos of former students and their projects to many people who visited his home.
Along with teaching, Gerald was the Maintenance Director for Van Wert City Schools. He also operated a home-based insurance agency from 1950-1977 through Motorists' Mutual. Gerald was a proud member of the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) for over 60 years. He was also a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Epsilon Pi Tau fraternity, Ohio Retired Teachers' Association, National Education Association and the Ohio Education Association. Gerald was the recipient of an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. where he was able to see the WWII Memorial. In 2009, he was named the Grand Marshal of the Van Wert Peony Festival Parade.
Gerald grew up going to Bethel Church; he and his siblings tagged along with his busy and involved Grandma, Clara Farling. After his marriage to Marilyn, they attended St. Mark's Lutheran Church as members for the rest of their lives. Gerald served in many ways but especially loved the Usher Team, where he served for decades.
After his retirement from teaching, Gerald continued to stay busy. He and his wife loved to travel; they went to all 48 contiguous states by way of their 1983 Chevrolet Silverado and attached pop-up camper, and also by many charter bus trips led by former YWCA travel director, Jean Owens. Gerald invested many hours in his home wood shop, making hundreds of projects for family and friends; he could fix anything that was broken. Gerald and Marilyn were life-long gardeners, earning dozens of blue ribbons from their beloved Van Wert County Fair. Gerald especially loved growing Better Boy tomatoes, Detroit Dark Red Beets (which we would pickle, along with hard-boiled eggs!), French Breakfast Radishes, and varieties of peaches from his beautiful trees. He enjoyed family history and genealogy, and did a lot of work for the Find A Grave website with his dear friend, L.W. Schaufelberger. Gerald and Marilyn loved their friends, enjoying many meals at Betty's Restaurant in Coldwater, OH; meals at Betty's were always full of pitchers of beer, baskets of fried chicken livers and gizzards, and tons of stories and laughter.
Gerald was a pillar of a man at 6'4'' but was soft-spoken and a true gentleman. Gerald was quick to show up at his grandkids' events, very proud of whatever they were doing, whether serving a volleyball, playing a band instrument, kicking a football, or singing in a musical. Gerald had a dog for much of his life; his cocker spaniels Muffin and Mandy were especially dear to him and Marilyn. He loved his "grand-dogs" Lexie, Ollie, and Nora. Gerald was especially tender with his great grandchildren, who absolutely loved their Paw Paw Manken. He was quick to help a squirmy toddler put their shoes on, pretend to "eat" play-doh food creations, and do many word searches and coloring book pages.
Gerald lived a very full 96 years and we will miss him terribly, but will cherish the countless memories we have with him.
Gerald's funeral service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, April 23, 2022 at Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home in Van Wert, with the Rev. William C. Haggis officiating; there will be one hour of visitation before the funeral starting at 1:00pm. Burial will take place directly following the service in Woodland Cemetery in Van Wert with military rites being performed by the Van Wert American Legion and VFW posts.. Visitation/calling hours will be from 2-5:00pm on Friday, April 22, 2022 at Alspach-Gearhart Funeral Home in Van Wert.
Gerald's family asks that every person who attends his visitation and funeral service wear face masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. They thank you in advance for your willingness to help protect those that are at high risk.
Preferred memorial: St. Mark's Lutheran Church or Van Wert County Humane Society
Condolences may be expressed at www.alspachgearhart.com.
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Van Wert County Humane Society
Van Wert OH 45891
St. Mark's Lutheran Church
Van Wert OH 45891