Gerald “Jerry” Schempp, 83, of Bismarck, passed away May 16, 2023, at CHI St. Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 AM on Monday, May 22, 2023, at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Bismarck, ND. Burial will be at Mandan Union Cemetery.
Visitation will be held Sunday, May 21, 2023, from 4:00-6:00 PM at Weigel Funeral Home, Mandan, with a Knights of Columbus Rosary/Parish Vigil at 6:00 PM. Visitation will continue at the church one hour prior to the service on Monday.
Gerald Leon “Jerry” Schempp (May 25, 1939-May 16, 2023) was welcomed into the world in Mandan, North Dakota, by his parents, Waldemar “Walt” and Lois Hannah (Kampert) Schempp. Jerry went to elementary school and high school in Mandan, enduring the discomfort of having his own mother as one of his teachers at Mary Stark Elementary, and eventually graduating with the class of 1957 at Mandan High. There he played cornet in the marching band, became a certified lifeguard, and made many friends. While in high school, he and his friends gathered at the Mandan Drug Store soda fountain, where their favorite “soda jerk”, Margaret “Marge” Hatzenbuhler worked. She and Jerry seemed to hit it off, although Marge knew everyone. It is said that one day she was visiting with her aunts, when the subject of boyfriends came up. One of her aunts asked what she was waiting for, “Are you waiting for him to grow up?” Yes, yes, she was. She and he waited another three years after he graduated, marrying at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Mandan, ND, June 18th, 1960.
Jerry had by this time joined the Catholic Church, and the United States Air Force. At McConnell, in Wichita, KS, their oldest daughter Rebecca Lynn “Becky” was born. While at McCoy Air Force Base near Orlando, FL, Pamela Ann “Pam” was born. It was sometime in the 1960s when he also became an amateur “HAM” radio operator. For much of his time in the Air Force he worked on F-111 aircraft. After proudly serving his country for twenty-three years, he retired at the rank of Master Sergeant, in the position we could only identify as, “officially First Sergeant, temporarily.”
Upon retirement from the Air Force, the family went back home to the Bismarck-Mandan area. There, Jerry first worked for Dakota Communications, repairing electronics. He also worked for Bismarck-Mandan Security, while using the GI Bill to attend Mary College (University of Mary, Bismarck, ND), earning his bachelor’s degree in 1983. He then worked for the North Dakota Division of Emergency Management and the North Dakota Highway Patrol, in both positions continuing his expertise in electronics and communication systems, until his retirement. He and Marge used the years of retirement together to travel, especially to visit their grandchildren.
Work, however, was not the heart and soul of Jerry. Even family wasn't, although it was very, very close. The heart and soul of Jerry's being was Christ Jesus in the Catholic Church. Jerry was a member of the Knights of Columbus from the 1960s till his dying day (joining the Fourth Degree in the 1970s in Plattsburgh). He was one of the earliest lay Eucharistic ministers at St. Christopher’s parish in North Las Vegas, NV. He was a catechism/CCD instructor to high school students while in Plattsburgh. It was during the family’s time in Plattsburgh that he came to know and love the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and the beauty and mystery of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. He was a cantor and a choir member in various parishes, the last one being St. Mary’s pro-cathedral in Bismarck. He never lost his love of music, although the loss of hearing made carrying a tune a bit more difficult. He also served as a lector, and continued to serve as a lay Eucharistic minister. He held positions in the Third and Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus at the local, district, and state levels. He took the demise of the cape and chapeau as an indication that his time as a member of the honor guard was at an end, as his health was declining at the same time. He and Marge cultivated a home where asking questions about God and the Church was met with some source of an answer - a book or priest or encyclical or whatever.
Jerry’s love of books and of reading knew only one end – a stroke in 2018, which stole his ability to enjoy it. Always aware of the connections between Christ Jesus and life, he turned his disappointment toward offering it up for his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, as well as for the Church and country he loved so much.
Jerry is survived by his wife of almost 63 years, Margaret (Hatzenbuhler); his daughter, Rebecca (James) Dosch in Bismarck, and their children Darla (Anthony) Hensel (Annadale, MN) and John (Sarah) (Oregon), and grandchildren, Veronica and Chloe Hensel. He is also survived by his daughter, Pamela (Sean) O’Keefe in Des Moines, IA, and their children, Patrick (Caoimhe [Kee-vah]) in Nashville, TN; Connor, Kevin (Jacinta), Kathryn, and Sean (Anne[Ann-ie]), all of Fargo, and Seamus [Shay-mus] (Des Moines). Their grandchildren are Kevin and Jacinta’s Evelyn, James, Peter, and Eleanor. Sean and Anne’s son will be born this summer. He is also survived by his brothers, Bob and Jim (Nancy) and their children.
Jerry is preceded in death by his parents, Walt and Lois; and his sister-in-law, Diane (Hummel, married to Bob). Also preceding him were his mother- and father-in-law, and brother- and sisters-in-law. Waiting to greet him in heaven, God willing, is a small choir of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren lost before their births on earth.