Gerald A. "Jerry" Van Der Leest, age 84, of Green Bay, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, following a long courageous battle with Alzheimer’s/Dementia and Congestive Heart Failure. He was born April 16, 1936 in Green Bay, son of the late Edwin and Leona (Bosse) Van Der Leest and was a graduate of Green Bay East High School, Class of 1954, attended the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and earned numerous Technical/Vocational Certificates.
After graduation, Jerry enlisted in the United States Air Force and proudly served his country from 1955 until 1959 when he was honorably discharged, with a ranking of Airman 1st Class. While stationed at the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, AZ, he met the love of his life, Jane "Jennie" Valenzuela. They were married on July 19, 1958 in Globe, AZ and shared 57 devoted years of marriage together before Jennie passed away, November 28, 2015.
Jerry worked tirelessly in many different professions over the course of his life, ranging from; engineering, construction, owner of a transportation company he started with one of his sons, and a custom home builder. Of all these different occupations, you could see the twinkle in his eye emerge when he would talk about being a home builder. Jerry genuinely loved being able to “see at the end of the day” the fruits of his labor and took enormous pride in his work. A consummate perfectionist, his dedication to quality construction, with enduring patience and a keen eye for trimming out a home, made him well sought after by those looking to hire a true custom home builder.
A life-long resident of the Badger State, Jerry often referred to Wisconsin’s winter wonderland as “God’s Country”. His winter enthusiasm was evident across the variety of activities he volunteered his time to; ranging from being a former member and past-president of the Sno-Birds Snowmobile Club to Youth Hockey. He started volunteering his time to youth hockey in Ashwaubenon, where he received many recognition awards for his commitment to not only building the program in its early years, but also coaching the game through many levels. Later, when he moved out to Suamico, he picked up where he left off and became active within the Howard-Suamico Youth Hockey program, culminating with coaching for Bay Port High School.
Jerry is survived by his children; Rick (Julie) Van Der Leest of Suamico, WI, Sheri Sorenson, Green Bay, WI, Julie (Bryan) Schlauch, Little Suamico, WI and Scott (Lisa) Van Der Leest, Green Bay, WI; his 8 grandchildren; and 1 great grandchild; a sister, Carol (Tom) Graves; sister-in-law: Shirley Rolfes; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his wife Jennie; daughter, Katherine “Kathy” Van Der Leest; grandson, Dakota Sorenson; and brother, Paul Rolfes.
After losing their first-born child Kathy to cancer, both Jerry and his late wife Jennie became quite passionate about supporting the mission of St. Jude Children's Cancer Research Center, Memphis, TN. Jerry wanted those who would like to make a monetary donation to do so by contributing to the memorial fund established under the name “Jerry Van Der Leest”, Memorial ID: 12014116. Simply call 1-800-822-6344, give them his Memorial ID, and the family will be notified of contributions made on Jerry’s behalf.
Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and related social distancing restrictions, Jerry's “Celebration of Life” is currently planned to be held at a later date, with burial to follow in Allouez Catholic Cemetery.
The Van Der Leest Family would like to thank Unity Hospice, especially the entire staff of caregivers at the Jack and Engrid Meng Residence, for the exceptional and compassionate End-of-Life Care they provided our father.