Donald Gjerdrum, 91, of Mabel
Thursday, September 27, 2012 8:32 AM
Donald Westby Gjerdrum, 91, of Mabel, died Sept. 21, 2012, at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, Wis.
He was born July 25, 1921, to John Bernard and Mildred (Westby) Gjerdrum at their farm north of Mabel. He attended elementary school at the little brick schoolhouse that still stands within sight of the Gjerdrum farm. He is a graduate of Mabel High School and Luther College in Decorah and received a Masters of Education in music from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
He was proud of his service in the Navy. He received three months of officer training at Columbia University in New York City and was commissioned on July 28, following his graduation from Luther College. He participated in the invasion at Salerno, Italy, aboard an LST (Landing Ship Tank), as well as the D-Day invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He spent three months in Hong Kong, China, working with a British marine commando to assist in the LST transport of the remnants of Chiang Kei Shek's Nationalist First Army from Hong Kong to North China. He was discharged from the Navy in June 1946.
His years in the service left him with a lifelong love of travel and an interest in the whole world. Following his service in the Navy, he enjoyed a rewarding career in high school music. He was a greatly respected band director and educator, and was also appreciated for his fine clarinet playing. He continued playing his clarinet into his 90th year.
His career as a band director began in Independence, Wis., where he taught for two years. There he met and married Doris Mae Olson on June 18, 1948.
After leaving Independence, he became an instructor in the reed section of the Luther College Band. From 1950 to 1956, he continued on as a part-time instructor at Luther, where he taught woodwinds, band management and directed the varsity band for two years. In 1953, he became director of bands in Spring Grove, where he taught until 1967.
In 1968, after a year of graduate school in Grand Forks, Mr. Gjerdrum accepted a position to direct the bands in Burnsville, Minn. In his 15 years there, he expanded the program, took the band on a European tour, and also served as president of the Minnesota Music Educators Association during this time.
At the Luther College Homecoming in 1973, he received the Carlo A. Sperati award in recognition of meritorious achievement in the field of music.
He and his wife, Doris, retired in 1983 and moved to the Gjerdrum farm near Mabel. Mrs. Gjerdrum died in 1993.
He married Linda Swenson Kjome on Dec. 26, 1994, and they have been fortunate to have almost 18 years together.
He is survived by his wife, Linda; his children, Mary (Tom) Holman of Ghana, West Africa, Sara (Charles Olson) Gjerdrum of St. Paul, Dorothy Gjerdrum of St. Paul and David (Karine Cantin) Gjerdrum of Minneapolis; stepchildren, Peter Kjome of Grand Rapids, Mich., Kristin (Jonathon Fischer) Kjome of Portland, Ore., Kari Kjome of Portland, Ore., Catherine Kjome of New York City; and grandchildren, Maria, Zinash and Aklilu Gjerdrum, Kalkidan and Bereket Olson, all of St. Paul; two stepgranddaughters, Klara and Elinor Kjome Fischer of Portland. He is also survived by a wonderful extended family and a wide circle of friends.
He was preceded in death by his sisters, Pauline Overland and Karen Myhre, and his first wife, Doris.
He was a faithful member of Scheie Lutheran Church in rural Mabel and a funeral service will be held there at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, with visitation one hour prior to the service.
Mengis Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
Memorials are suggested to Wycliffe Bible Translators in support of Mary and Tom Holman, the Gundersen Lutheran Hospice or to Scheie Lutheran Church.