Gerald Rasmussen 1926-2013:
This is the obituary as it appeared today in the Eugene Register-Guard.
Gerald Rasmussen passed away at home on Love Lake Farm, east of Junction City, on September 30. He was 87.
Gerry was born on July 18, 1926 to Hans and Helga (nee Bodtker) Rasmussen in a hospital in Eugene. He was raised in Junction City among the Danish immigrant community there. As a child, he attended Junction City schools, Dane School in the summers, and worked at Hans Rasmussen’s feed and seed store. He graduated from Junction City High School in 1944.
In July of 1944 Gerry joined the U.S. Navy. He was in training as a signalman for the Pacific Theater when the Second World War ended and was among the first occupation forces in Japan immediately after the war where he served as a signalman at the mouth of Tokyo Bay directing ship traffic. His time in Japan was the topic of his short monograph Remembering Japan, which his granddaughter Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein helped design, proof and produce.
After the war, Gerry returned to Lane County and attended the University of Oregon. In 1947 Gerry attended Grand View College – a Danish Lutheran junior College in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1948 Gerry travelled to Denmark where he attended Askov Folk School for a year. There he met Sigrid Pedersen, a native of Skive, Denmark, whom he married in Skive on July 24, 1949. After honeymooning in England and Wales, Gerry and Sigrid moved to Junction City.
Gerry finished his BA at the University of Oregon in 1951 and thereafter taught at public schools in Redmond and Albany. In 1957 Gerry accepted a position teaching history at Grand View College. While teaching at Grand View College he completed his MA at the University of Oregon in history. In 1963, Gerry was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and he and Sigrid and their four children moved to Denmark where Gerry taught at several Danish Teachers Colleges. After a year in Denmark, the Rasmussens moved to Kelso, Washington, where Gerry taught at Lower Columbia College.
In 1965, Gerry was hired at Lane Community College, and thus was among the earliest staff at LCC. In his long career at LCC, Gerry was a teacher, department chair, Associate Dean, Dean, Vice President and Interim President. He was instrumental in moving the college to the large campus, in creating the women’s study program and the black studies program in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and in helping guide the growth of LCC from a small, new community college to a nationally recognized community college. Gerry retired from LCC as Vice President of Instruction in 1986. He took great pride and pleasure in his role in helping to create a vibrant new institution that still serves the community in so many ways.
For many years Gerry served on many local and statewide boards and commissions including as a Commissioner of Oregon Public Broadcasting, Founder, Vice-President and later President of the Danish American Heritage Society, and Board member of the Junction City Historical Society, to name a few. Gerry served on numerous Community College accreditation teams and was especially proud of his role in accrediting several Tribal Community Colleges in Montana and Idaho. He was a long time member of the Danish Brotherhood.
Both before and after retirement, Gerry enjoyed annual summer camping trips with family all over Oregon especially in many remote places. He also loved politics, singing folk songs, reading and studying history, and swimming in outdoor bodies of water regardless of the time of year. Gerry was a lifelong and unapologetic new deal democrat, and always enjoyed political discussion. He was an early supporter and worker in the civil rights movement in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. His incisive political conversation and commentary was always informed by a deep understanding of U. S. history.
In retirement, Gerry continued his many loves and adventures, writing his book Oregon Danish Colony about the Danish immigrant community in Junction City, lobbying for community colleges with the Oregon Community College Association in Salem. He also enjoyed taking many trips with family and especially his wife Sigrid to Denmark, Norway, the Baltic states, remote places in Oregon and other unique locales, and spending time with family, especially his wife and grandchildren. He also continued his ardent bread baking hobby, and was the proud winner of several ribbons for bread baking at the Lane County Fair.
Gerry loved the outdoors, birds, dogs, history in general and US history in particular, and American folk music. He passed these loves along to his children and his wife. Gerry was a lover of adventure, was curious and cheerful, and occasionally mischievous. Perhaps above all, Gerry enjoyed genuine conversation. Gerry and his conversation and reminiscences will be missed by his family and his many friends.
Gerry is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sigrid; daughter, Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor at Duke University; daughter, Sonja Rasmussen, Coordinator of the Mills International Center at the University of Oregon (the late Steve Larson, Professor of music at the U of O); son, Karsten Rasmussen, Lane County Circuit Court Judge (Christine Lewandowski, retired OLCC commissioner); and daughter, Alis Rasmussen, author of 21 published novels [writing as Kate Elliot] (Jay Silverstein, Dept of Defense, GIS & Data Integrity Section Chief, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command); and by grandchildren: Carolee Scott, Robert Dickson, Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, Arnbjørn Stokholm, Alexander Rasmussen-Silverstein, David Rasmussen- Silverstein, Ethan Rasmussen, and Hannah Larson.
In the Danish American community of Gerry’s youth, at the end of many gatherings people traditionally sang – in Danish – a song of farewell, the first verse of which, translated, is:
ONWARD On your way! Be brave and true! Should the road seem endless,
Walk where God is near and you Never can be friendless
Gerry believed that what matters in life is integrity in our relationships with our fellow human beings and he placed his faith in our shared humanity.