Ron Gerhardt, 72, Bismarck, passed away April 13, 2018.
Mass of Christian burial will be held Wednesday, April 18, at Church of Corpus Christi, Bismarck, with The Reverend Paul Becker presiding. Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, followed by a remembrance at 7 p.m.
A second visitation will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday morning at Church of Corpus Christi, before Mass.
The graveside service will be held at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Thursday, April 19 at 1 p.m.
Born in Grand Forks in 1945, Ron was the son of Vivian Mary (Bulger) Gerhardt and Ralph John Gerhardt.
Ron grew up in Bismarck, graduated from St. Mary’s Central High School in 1963 and Mary College in 1971 with a Bachelor of Social Work. He completed addiction counselor training, dedicating over 40 years of his life to working with those struggling with chemical dependency.
At Mary College he met his future wife, Joyce Elizabeth (Ebert), in an Introduction to Philosophy class. The two were married in Grafton on Aug. 24, 1968, but Ron struggled with the disease of alcoholism. Following broken promise after broken promise that strained family relationships, including his marriage, Ron ultimately called Heartview on Oct. 6, 1969, the night he took his last drink. The next morning, with Joyce and his father by his side, Ron made the drive across the Missouri River to Mandan where he checked in for treatment. That single decision not only changed his life, but continues to ripple into the lives of thousands of others dealing with alcohol and drug addiction even after his death.
Ron’s care, compassion, empathy, firmness and honesty with and for those in his group became legendary. Ron knew when someone wasn’t being honest, and had the ability to draw out the truth while respecting each person’s dignity. Having been there himself, he used the darkest hours of his life to bring light to the lives of others.
Ron and Joyce welcomed their son Tom on June 6, 1970, and daughter Sara on Feb. 26, 1978.
Ron developed a passion for the outdoors from an early age, spending countless hours fishing and hunting with his dad, brother Gary, and uncles Bill and Jerry. He had a special love for the Lake of the Woods near his mother’s hometown of Stephen, Minn. Always drawn to adventure, Ron was a son of the wind and the waves and the cottonwoods and cattails.
He led his family on dozens of camping trips in a Starcraft pop-up including many to Beaver Bay near Linton. A ferocious storm during one of those outings led Joyce and Ron to buy a dilapidated home in Pollock that came to be known as The Last Resort. The Pollock home became an escape for the family for fishing trips, gardening, taking the grandkids to the park, cooking, wiffle ball games, telling stories and sharing laughter and memories.
Brother-in-law Gary Bitz, brother Gary and nephews Patrick and Sean and many, many friends of Bill W. made trips to the little house on ‘E’ Street. Ron’s childhood friend Dick Tjaden and sons joined dad for an annual fall fishing and hunting excursion. Longtime friend and bridge partner Mark Hanlon and his wife Kate moved in Next to the Last Resort. The list of people who enjoyed the quiet getaway is too numerous to mention.
There are many lessons to learn from Ron’s life. He led by example. Instead of being ashamed of his past, he faced it honestly and then let it go. Instead of fearing the future, he lived attentively in the present. A runner of around a dozen marathons, he shared with his children a love of running. His advice was to finish strong every time. He was passionate about duplicate bridge and was a Silver Life Master. He taught all the value and importance of keeping our bodies and minds in motion “one day at a time.”
He picked up cycling with Joyce and the two completed multiple CANDISC tours in North Dakota but were most proud of completing the over three thousand mile Lewis and Clark Trail.
Ron loved to travel and took Joyce, his mom Vivian, and his children on adventures across the country. Two trips stand out: traveling to Alaska and back in the big brown Chevy van pulling the pop-up camper and a cross-country trip in the family’s Pontiac Phoenix to California.
He enjoyed Disney World and other amusement parks and rode the wildest roller coasters with his grandkids, who affectionately called him “Papa.” His greatest joy was watching his children and grandchildren in every activity or sport they participated in, rain or shine. He was so proud when they would look for him in the crowd and exchange a smile or a thumbs up. He would tell them to work hard and have fun. Papa could cheer them up with a jingle or a rhyme when they were down.
Papa Ron had an unmistakable bond with his eight grandchildren, taking special joy in spending time with each of them. Papa loved food and spent time grocery shopping with Micaela and attending her choir concerts. He liked to take Gabe fishing and attending his many concerts. He loved watching Riley play soccer and looking for crocuses each spring with Rowan at Sleepy Hollow. He played Disney cars with Pax and was Maddux’s number one fan at his many sports games. A lover of puzzles, he spent hours piecing them together with Alex and simply tried to keep up with his youngest grandchild Zach.
He had strong relationships with his son-in-law and daughter-in-law, considering them “one of his own.” He was known to call Brenna at work to talk about a recipe he had seen on television or read about in a book to try and convince her to cook it soon. He enjoyed fishing and watching games and concerts together with Jay. He called them both his “favorites!”
An avid sports fan, he cheered for the Boston Red Sox and Celtics, Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers (Tom is a Vikings fan). He became known as the biggest fan of Sara’s softball teams, shouting encouragement from the stands while making sure the ladies hustled out each play.
Ron often said there were three things necessary to live a happy life: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to.
He surrounded himself with friends in sobriety, in particular a group he affectionately termed The Lantern Club after Heartview’s logo. Those ongoing relationships sustained him in his lifetime journey of recovery.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Joyce; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Brenna Gerhardt; daughter and son-in-law, Sara and Jason Gerving; eight grandchildren: Micaela, Gabe, Riley, Rowan, Paxon, Maddux, Alex and Zach; his sister Sue (Gary) Bitz; his brother Gary (Janet) Gerhardt; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Vivian and Ralph Gerhardt and his daughter, Jennifer Joyce, Jan. 16, 1972.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Ron Gerhardt Recovery Fund, Heartview Foundation.
To those of you in the recovery community and those to come, please know there is hope, that you’re not alone and that help is a phone call away. May you find happiness in a new life.
Go to www.eastgatefuneral.com to share memories of Ron and to sign the online guest book.