John Gerdes met his late wife, Jerrie, at a college mixer in the late 1950s when they were just 18 years old. The jukebox was playing the latest hits, and John was excited to meet new friends-and potential dates-as a college freshman.
But when he saw Jerrie, everything changed.
"On some level, I must have known the first time I met her that I was going to marry her," John says. "She wasn't like the other girls I met. She wasn't waiting by the phone. I realized she was just like my two grandmothers-very educated pioneer women, good people who didn't take any nonsense."
John and Jerrie built a beautiful life together. After marrying in 1960, they had three children and many grandchildren before Jerrie died in 2004 after a 16-year battle with multiple cancers.
"I remember Jerrie every day and I thank God for every day we had together as husband and wife for 43 years," John says. "She's one of God's greatest blessings."
John knows the mourning process will never be entirely over, but he is forever grateful for the compassionate world-class care Jerrie received at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Siteman Cancer Center.
"They have good people who do excellent work," John says. "From top to bottom, I can't think of a better place to be. I have never found one weak link in the chain, and I've spent lots of time there. I've never been any place even near this magnitude in my 77 years."
John decided to show his gratitude by supporting the institution that gave Jerrie precious extra years of life. He included a bequest in his will that will leave his entire estate to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"When I die, everything I have will go to Barnes-Jewish," he says. "I can't begin to tell you how much this institution has done for me, my wife and all three of my children. My grandchildren wouldn't have had a grandmother as long as they did without Barnes-Jewish. I wanted to, in some small way, pay back the many kindnesses my wife and I have been given by the hospital."