It’s Saturday night, March 28th 2009. We just got back home from Evart, MI. This past week has been surreal. On Wed morning, I got a call from Andy that one of my dearest friends, Dr. Jerry Vonderhaar had committed suicide. The next two days were a flurry of emotions for me. Yesterday, we drove up and went right to the pub where there was a wake of sorts. Leanna (his wife, and also our dear friend) was in the midst of all these people. It was good to just be with her finally. I got to meet a lot of family members that I’d only heard about for years through Jer and Leanna. Anyway, Mel and I took their two kids Emily and Ian with us last night and let them play in our room with Molly (Emmy’s best friend too).

For nearly an hour, I got the pleasure of being Ian’s own punching bag/jungle gym/wrestling buddy. I haven’t known what it was like to have a boy around too much, and it was a joy. We awoke, grabbed the complimentary “continental” (which is a pretty shady term for assorted cereal and pre-wrapped muffins) breakfast then headed over to our friends the Kricks. All their kids, and the three with us played wildly while we four adults caught up over some AMAZING coffee that Mike brought back from Geuatemala. Then, after a quick lunch, we made our way to the church for the memorial service. It was pretty packed with family, friends and patients of Jer (he was an amazing Chiroprater and health specialist) including his many Amish family patients.

The service was kind of ‘ok.’ It was held at a church that Jer and Leanna had stopped attending awhile ago, and led by the pastor who was the primary reason they left for. Honestly, it didn’t seem to be at all what Jer would have wanted…in fact, I know it wasn’t what Jer really wanted as he told me numerous times that he wanted a celebration of life and a party…but, in the end, it’s what Leanna agreed to so it’s whatever she wants of course.

Then, the family and us headed back to the house to snack and talk. Andy and Chandra were there (which was so great) and Andy and I were able to drink a Guinness and smoke a cigar in Jer’s honor out back around a campfire – Jer’s fav. thing to do out back – which was pretty perfect. Then, a bunch of us walked back to the place in the woods where Jer took his life. While kind of strange, it really helped me to be able to say “goodbye” in a way. There was no trace of the event, only bleached bark on some trees where the med team had cleaned up. Again, kind of morbid but in a way it was some kind of closure as there was no casket at the service.

Anyway, I just wanted to say once again a big “Thank You” to all who’ve prayed, and sent notes for encouragement. I’ll probably be ready to re-engage with real life on monday or tuesday and will make a concerted effort to write each of you back.

3 responses to “Jer

  1. Chad,

    Just saw your blog and previously read Jerry’s info on his site. What a shock and how sad. Jer and I were best buddies in high school back in Papillion. I can only say that I’ll cherish all of the memories we had growing up. I didn’t know Leanna, but I hope she’s doing well, and his family as well.


  2. Hey Mike, I’d love to hear any “young Jer” stories you might have! Leanna is doing well (as well as you can be you know). She and the kids just moved down here closer to us (which we’re THRILLED about) – and hope that being closer to her family and a new setting helps her with the healing. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Thanks for the quick response, I tried to send Leanna an email but the address I had bounced. If you talk to any of Jerry’s family please pass along that I said hello give my best wishes. Since college Jer and I had kinda lost contact, but a few years back I stumbled across his website and traded a few emails ( I think it was around the birth of his first child) Truth be told I think I was the one who got him into Scuba diving in Iowa and Nebraska lakes. We spent a lot of time together throughout high school and he even went out to California with my family for vacation in 1975 where we did our first ocean dives. I’ll keep checking back here and hopefully his mom and sibs will check in. Thanks for the blog, I did also download the nice video on youtube that his brother in law posted, very touching.

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