Robert F. Gerkensmyer, a longtime Sealtest Dairy milkman who later owned Gerkey’s Another Place bar in Point Place, died Wednesday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg. He was 93.
He was suffering from congestive heart failure, said his daughter Terry Wilson, with whom he lived in Oregon for the last year and a half.
Mr. Gerkensmyer was born in Toledo and moved when he was 3 to Williston, Ohio, where he would spend the next 88 years of his life.
He built a career delivering bottled milk to families door-to-door for Sealtest Dairy, always working to acquire more clients as he went about his route. For a long time, Mr. Gerkensmyer made his deliveries by a horse-drawn wagon. The horse he worked with was named Lucy, Ms. Wilson said.
“When they gave him a truck to make deliveries instead, he said it took him an hour and a half longer to do the route because the horse knew the route and would always meet him at the end of each street,” she said.
Mr. Gerkensmyer was a captivating storyteller throughout his life, whether he was talking about Lucy, fishing excursions, or his beloved Detroit Tigers baseball team.
“He was a talker, a salesman,” said grandson Kevin Wilson, of Graytown, Ohio. “He was a very chatty, personable guy.”
When Sealtest Dairy closed, he went to work as a sales manager for Prudential Insurance, his daughter said. When he retired from sales, he opened Gerkey’s Another Place in Point Place and ran the establishment for about 11 years.
Gerkey was his nickname throughout his life, because it was easier to say than Gerkensmyer, Ms. Wilson said. His social, jovial nature made him a successful bar owner, his grandson said.
Mr. Gerkensmyer was born May 23, 1925, to Emma and Amiel Gerkensmyer. He attended Genoa High School and played on the football and basketball teams while a student there.
After high school he was drafted into the military, but he was sent home before he could join any branch of service. It’s anther story Ms. Wilson remembers her father telling over the years.
“When he got on the bus to go from Toledo to Port Clinton it was during hay fever season, and he had hay fever really bad,” she said. “His eyes were all swollen and his nose was running really bad, and when they saw him they put him in another line. He didn’t get to go into the service, and he got a lot of flak from people.”
He met his wife, then Ethel Novin, when she was working at her uncle’s restaurant and dance hall, the Gulish Villa. The two married in 1946 and traveled every summer together or with their extended family. The two visited every state except for Washington and Oregon.
Ethel Gerkensmyer died March 6, 2012, at their home at age 87.
Mr. Gerkensmyer joined a fishing club with friends he worked with at Sealtest Dairy and would take frequent fishing trips. The group called themselves HSIF, or fish spelled backward, which stood for High Society of Independent Fishermen. His daughter remembers the group converted an old school bus into a motor home for their travels.
The men bought a cottage in Reading, Mich., on Long Lake so their families could vacation together. Eventually, the other fishing buddies sold the cottage to Mr. Gerkensmyer, who continued spending many summers with his family at the lake. The invitation to enjoy the cottage was always open.
“He was a very giving man. He liked to share,” his grandson said. “There were a lot of firsts for my kids and my friends’ children up there — first fish they ever caught, first time water skiing, first time being on a boat.”
Surviving are his daughter, Terry Wilson; two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation will continue at 10 a.m. Monday at Eggleston Meinert and Pavley Funeral Home’s Oregon chapel until the service, which begins at 11 a.m.
The family suggests tributes to Allen-Clay Joint Fire District or Genoa High School Athletic Department.
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