BERKHOUT, Gerardus Johannes (Gerry) - our gentle giant, bid a fond farewell to his family on New Year’s Day at the age of 82. Known for his commitment to community and dearly loved by an abundance of family and friends, Gerry fought wholeheartedly to regain his health in hospital at Hotel Dieu-Shaver, but finally succumbed peacefully and painlessly in his sleep. Gerry, endearingly Opa, to his 12 grandchildren, was born on December 18, 1936 in the Netherlands. He grew up in the village of Spanbroek where his parents were part of the Dutch underground resistance. They ran a general store and both sheltered and facilitated the safe passage of Jews during WWII.
At the age of 16, he emigrated to Canada with his parents (John and Catherine) and siblings settling in the Wainfleet area. Gerry joined the Canadian Navy and while based in Halifax, he heard of a ‘Dutch Day’ taking place in Antigonish. Not one to ever miss a party, he hitched a ride to check it out. As luck would have it, he was swept off his feet by a Dutch girl named Ann Van Berkel. Gerry and Ann married in 1962. Gerry left the Navy after 5 years of service and moved back to Ontario where Ann would teach and Gerry would sell real estate. By 1971, they started their own real estate company called GJ Berkhout Realty, operating out of their new building at the corner of Pelham & Quaker where they lived in an apartment upstairs with their 3 daughters, Cathy, Sylvia and Carol. Eventually they moved to ‘The Berkley’ on Cream St. in Fenwick. In 1986, Gerry suffered a devastating blow with the death of Ann. He and his daughter Cathy eventually came to work as partners at Century 21 Berkhout Ltd, celebrating successes as the business prospered and raising money for Easter Seals each year with their famed annual garage sales.
In 1989, Gerry married the second love of his life, Gwenn Alves and together they combined and nurtured their growing families, spending fruitful hours tending their impressive backyard garden, bathing in the warm sun and cool waters of Blind Bay, walking the backroads of Pelham and taking countless road trip adventures together. Gerry, also known as Wooden Shoes, by his fellow Lions and Royal Canadian Legion comrades, or Uncle Gerry by his friends at MT Bellies, has been known to win a turkey or 2, sing a song out of the blue, revel in football picks with his pal Dougie, and enjoy his ‘rental steaks’ from honorary son, Rick. He also took great pleasure in sharing a glass of vino or 2 with his extended Italian famiglia, visiting with ‘brother’ Glenn along the river, and growing award-winning pumpkins with his longtime friend, Henny.
Enjoying time with family and friends was fundamentally important to Gerry, but so was being involved in his community. Gerry was a 50 year member of both the Fonthill Lions Club and Branch 613 Canadian Legion where he helped fundraise for countless projects, most notably the revitalization of Veterans Park in 2008. He founded the Pelham Food Drive and organized it for 25 years. While serving as a Pelham Town Councillor from 1998 to 2003, he helped initiate the Farmers Market and Paul Nemy Trail. Gerry was also an Honorary Lifetime Director of the Welland/Pelham Chamber of Commerce. He coordinated the construction of a Visitor Information Booth and tirelessly championed Pelham as the “Jewel of Niagara”.
Gerry was humbled by the many honours he received for his contributions to the community, including a Paul Harris Fellow award from both the Welland Rotary and the Fonthill Rotary Clubs, Pelham Citizen of the Year in 2005, and most recently the opening of the Gerry Berkhout Trail.
Gerry felt truly blessed to be part of a huge family that includes his wife Gwenn; children Cathy (John), Sylvia (Phil), Kelly (Rick), Kirk (Dawn), Karri (Michael) and Carol (Dave); grandchildren Dylin (Tracy), Kevin (Agata), Katy (Jon), Anneka, Kiera, Liam, Phoebe, Taylor, Isaak, Lucas, Ryleigh, Krystyna, and great-grandson Cy. Also his siblings Jack (Nella), Siem (Theresa), John (Nancy), Hans d.2008 (Regina), Lea, Bill (Christine); the Alves clan Leslie (Bruce), Tony (Joanne), and David (Barbara); and always felt lovingly embraced by the entire Van Berkel family –Ann’s 10 sisters and brothers and their families. He was loved and adored by his many nieces and nephews and maintained a close connection with numerous relatives in the Netherlands.
It is with gratitude and appreciation that we acknowledge Dr. Jennifer Mueller and Nurse Lydia who diligently coordinated Gerry’s health care.
Please join with our family as we celebrate the life of a man whose generous compassionate spirit touched so many of us. Family and friends will be received at the PEDLAR FUNERAL HOME, 1292 Pelham Street, Fonthill on Sunday, January 6th, 1-4 and 6-9pm. The funeral mass to honour Gerry will take place Monday, January 7th, 11am at St. Ann's Catholic Church, 834 Canboro Road, Fenwick. Interment will follow at Hillside Cemetery. The celebration of Gerry’s life will then continue with a reception at Branch 613 Royal Canadian Legion 1-5pm, 141 Highway 20 W. Fonthill.
In memory of Gerry, donations can be made to the Gerry Berkhout Trail Fund or the A2 District Lions Diabetes Awareness Fund.
‘The more we get together, the happier we’ll be...’