Jerry Whitcomb Gerich

Jerry Whitcomb Gerich

Jerry Whitcomb Gerich died Dec. 23, 2017 at Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital in Portland, Oregon. He was 76.

He was born on June 3, 1941, in Evanston, Illinois to Ellen and Jerry Gerich. He received an undergraduate degree in engineering and graduate degrees in mechanical and industrial engineering from the University of Michigan. At the University of Michigan he was a letter-winning high jumper on the track and field team. Gerich was a lifelong fan of University of Michigan athletics, especially U of M football.

One week after his undergraduate graduation, he married Carol Knecht, also a University of Michigan alum. They resided in Ann Arbor for two years while Gerich pursued his graduate studies and Carol taught English and journalism at a local middle school.

In 1966, they moved to Livermore, California, where Gerich began a career he loved at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). His career at LLNL spanned 35 years and encompassed engineering positions in their nuclear weapons design program, solar energy group, magnetic fusion program and the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Gerich and his wife raised their two daughters, Karna and Bryn, in Livermore and made many lifelong friends there.

In his lifetime Gerich had many hobbies and interests. Ever-conscious of the environment, he helped initiate the first recycling program for Livermore. He had a passion for flying and piloted both glider planes and small power airplanes for enjoyment. Courtesy of living in the California countryside, he became a licensed water treatment plant operator and a volunteer firefighter.

After his retirement from LLNL, Gerich moved to Portland, Oregon, and married his former high school sweetheart, Jean Smith. Gerich and Jean lived their days in Oregon enjoying each other’s company and the beauty of Oregon’s natural world as well as travelling together to see family and new sights across the globe.

Gerich was known for his thoughtful and caring approach to life and those around him. He was a gentle and respectful person who touched many lives with his kindness. An especially wonderful father, he always kept his daughters at the center of his life.

Gerich is survived by his wife, Jean Gerich; his daughters, Karna Gerich Cestero (Rafael) and Bryn Gerich (Steve) from his first marriage to Carol Gerich; his brother, John Gerich (Elise); and two nieces, Jocelyn Gerich and Samantha Jordan. He also leaves his stepdaughter, Tessa White (Mike), and stepson, Kyle Williamson (Ari), seven grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.

A celebration of life service is planned for this summer in Oregon on Mount Hood. Donations may be made in Gerich’s honor to the Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund as part of their memorial donation programs. Contacts: karna.gerichcestero [at] verizon.net (Karna Gerich Cestero) or bgerich [at] gmail.com (Bryn Gerich).