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Gerald James Hedtke
Gerald J. “Jerry” Hedtke, age 80, of Freedom, passed away at his home surrounded by his loving family on April 13, 2019. He was born on May 3, 1938, son of the late Edward and Rose (Marten) Hedtke. On August 19, 1960, he married Mary Kay Leitch at Grace Lutheran Church, Oshkosh.
Jerry grew up in Oshkosh as one of 10 children. He enjoyed playing many sports as a child and in high school including basketball, football, baseball and after school played golf and softball for many years. He graduated from Oshkosh High School, Waushara County Teachers College, UW Oshkosh for his undergraduate and finally UW Milwaukee for his master degree in Education and Administration.
Jerry’s career started as a teacher in Seymour, which lead to positions at St. Al’s in Kaukauna and finally Freedom. He then became the principal at Freedom Elementary, a position that he held for 19 years. One of the things Jerry was most proud of was forming a foreign exchange program with France for the 5th graders at Freedom Elementary. In 1982, he received the C.A.S.E. award for Principal of the Year for his work with the special education program. He was also a published author for the State Principal’s Journal, writing an article on discipline. Jerry was a man of great integrity and honesty, making him an incredible leader and principal. No matter what, Jerry always put the best interest of the children first.
After retirement, a new chapter of Jerry’s life started and he dedicated his life to volunteering, service to the community and his family. Jerry and Mary Kay started a scholarship for High School Seniors from Freedom that will be continued on in his memory. He became even more active in his church, Immanuel United Church of Christ in Kaukauna. He served in many capacities, including president of the church council for four terms. Jerry also served his community as a charter member of the Freedom Lions Club. He served as president and was a very active and dedicated member. Jerry was also a 1000 hour volunteer with the St. Paul Home in Kaukauna and once was the volunteer of the year.
In his free time, Jerry loved to travel and his favorite trip was to China and Thailand. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and loved playing cards especially bridge. He and Mary Kay played countless hours and tournaments of duplicate bridge and he was a member of the American Bridge Association.
Jerry is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Kay; a son, Brad (fiancé, Shawna) Hedtke; a daughter, Penny (special friend, Mike) Kurkiewicz; grandson, Wyatt Kurkiewicz; brother and sisters-in-law: Bev Gillgren and Bryon (Zona) Leitch; many nieces, nephews, other family members and friends.
Jerry was preceded in death by his parents and 9 siblings.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Immanuel United Church of Christ, 510 Sullivan Ave., Kaukauna. Visitation will be at the church on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until the time of the service. Full military honors will take place after the service. Interment will be in Union Cemetery, Kaukauna. For online condolences, please visit www.verkuilenfh.com.
The Hedtke family would like to extend a special thank you to the staffs of Good Shepherd Nursing Facility, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton and Ascension At Home for the wonderful care they provided to Jerry. We would also like to thank these friends and neighbors for their friendship and kindness: Gardner, Mary, Steve, Hank, Margaret Ann, Paul, Kelly, Mark, Evonne, Merle, Sharon, Craig, Beth, Danette, Jacque, Toni, Dick and Nancy.