Gerald J. Rathouz
August 29, 1940 – April 15, 2023
Gerry Rathouz, 82, passed away in Omaha on April 15, 2023. Born in St. Louis in 1940, he graduated from St. Louis University and Michigan State University, studying civil engineering. Gerry built a career at Northern Natural Gas in Omaha and spent his retirement enjoying 20 summers at Lake Okoboji.
Gerry is survived by his loving wife, Dee Ebel; children: Paul, Maggie (Jeff), Georgianne, John (Lindsay), and Mark (Sarah). He was a proud grandparent to: Luke, Lily, Hanna Lou, Annika, Marian, Lydia, and Winnie. Gerry’s generosity extended to everyone, dedicating his time, energy, and resources to enrich the lives of those around him and many he never met.
Join us for his Wake Service on Friday, April 28th, at Heafey Hoffman Dworak Cutler, 7805 W Center Rd. Visitation is from 5-7 pm, followed by a Vigil and Family Remembrances.
A Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, April 29th, at 10:30 am at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 2207 Wirt St.
In lieu of flowers, please consider memorials to St. Augustine Indian Mission, Siena Francis House, or Abide.
To view live broadcasts of the Vigil and Mass, please visit www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Cast” button at the top of the home page.
A steady force of kindness, Gerald John Rathouz graced this world on August 29, 1940, leaving a legacy of generosity that touched many lives. His dad, Joe, liked to say, “Make it pretty like you know how,” and this was a mantra Gerry strived to live by. Whether through his love and resourceful commitment to family, friends, and community, or his meticulous yard work, Gerry made things prettier, and he knew how! He was called from us on April 15, 2023, in Omaha in the presence of family, and is survived by his wife Dee, 5 children, 7 grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
Born to hard-working parents Marge and Joe in St. Louis, Gerry was joined by his sister Rita four years later and surrounded by an extended German Catholic family. As a boy, he served customers at the family’s confectionery shop and rode the city bus to drop off the store’s daily receipts at the bank. In between, he would sneak the occasional spoonful of ice cream from a tub at the store. Gerry also could be found with lifelong friends Dick Carr and Ken Feld, playing Corkball in the street or empty lot nearby. He attended his neighborhood high school, St. Francis DeSales. Gerry then earned degrees from St. Louis University and Michigan State, channeling his mechanically inclined mind into a four-decades-long engineering career that journeyed from St. Louis, and McDonnell Aircraft’s partnership with NASA’s Gemini program, to Northern Natural Gas in Omaha. His creativity extended to designing several home renovations – carefully drafting plans on graph paper, showcasing his eye for detail and precision. Gerry retired in 1999, spending 20 active and beautiful summers on Lake Okoboji, one season memorably reprising his previous community theater chops with roles in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” When in Omaha, he dedicated time to enjoying his permanent role as Dee’s “Deputy of Landscape Management” and sous chef, accomplishing projects around the house and those of his kids, volunteering to help seniors navigate Medicare and taxes, and donating blood. Gerry remained a dependable member of his church (where he liked to sing), advocated for immigrants’ rights, and rooted for Creighton basketball.
Family and relationships were at the center of Gerry’s life, prioritizing generosity and others’ well-being and happiness. Indeed, by our records, Gerry never lived alone. (He also never appears to have had a car accident … how do you even do that?) He always ensured his family had vacations and recreation, no matter how humble (limited car A/C; camping; free dam tours). While maintaining lifelong connections with his St. Louis—Rathouz, Anderhub, and Diaz—families, he also actively involved—and truly enjoyed the company of—the Mendenhall and Mudd grandparents, aunts, and cousins. Gerry was a good neighbor and maintained strong friendships with Omaha folks, including Fran and Janet Klein, Father Bill Weidner, Frances Mendenhall, and Mike and Margaret McMeekin. But he also enjoyed chatting with complete strangers (a habit he undoubtedly picked up from his dad) and had an unmatched ability to charm even the most disciplined customer service agents. His earnest nature earned him the trust and admiration of all who knew him. Above all, Gerry’s profound faith in God served as his guide, inspiring him to embody love, compassion, and dedication to others.
Gerry was proud of his children, always encouraging and supportive, and described his efforts as a parent as “keeping five plates spinning.” In 1962, he married Mary Ellen Mendenhall and, in the years to come, Paul, Maggie, and Georgianne were born. The family moved from East Lansing, back to St. Louis, on to a small starter house at 44th and Fort in Omaha, and then to a home in the Country Club neighborhood. As a single father in the 70s (a rare breed), Gerry managed to weave high expectations for his kids with uncommon trust, shared responsibility, and freedom, resulting in lifelong lessons and memories. Among the many: assigned household chores (including cooking) and home improvement projects; creating a complex system of monetary rewards for good grades that accounted for merit and development; reading “The Hobbit” out loud before bed; allowing Paul and Maggie to drive the family car to Central High and park at his nearby office while he took the city bus to work; and, taking his turn water-skiing behind the family boat while barking signals to one of his pre-teen drivers. A common parenting approach was to simply ask, “Did you use your best judgment?”
While raising his first 3 children, Gerry was matched up to play doubles tennis with Dee Ebel. They hit it off and, in 1981, the score was “love all” as the two were married and went on to team up for the next 42 years. Dee always spoke highly of her favorite dance partner and Gerry always had Dee’s back. John was born first, followed by Mark. With the big kids out of the house, the Ebel-Rathouz family moved west, to Rockbrook, where Gerry padded his previous parenting resume by coaching the boys’ baseball and soccer, guiding youth groups, exploring unfamiliar sports (rock-climbing with Mark, golfing with John), energetically tutoring math, and once famously directing a talent show “can-can” dance of John’s grade school friends. In the most recent 22 years, he welcomed spouses Jeff, Sarah, and Lindsay to the family, and became an expert grandparent to Luke, Lily, Hanna Lou, Annika, Marian, Lydia, and Winnie. All of Gerry’s grandchildren were indoctrinated with “Tanner up. Go Boom,” and loved playing and working with him. Whether throwing a ball, dressing up in princess clothes, raking leaves, driving the boat, singing Happy Birthday, biking the trails, learning to sail, going rafting, or seeing him in the stands at events, time with Bacca/Grandpa Gerry, was fun and memorable!
Gerry left an indelible impression throughout his life with his unique values, principles, character, and humor (pun-heavy). He thrived by listening more than speaking. Many memories are recounted above and relate to family, parenting, and broader relationships. Beyond that, as a solid and well-trained engineer, he was rigorous in thought. He checked his work and knew the hazards of getting the wrong answer. And he did that work with such a mechanical, creative mind. He enjoyed thinking about math and understanding how systems worked, from health insurance and philanthropic giving to HVAC and plumbing. He believed in doing the right thing and strongly emphasized the “spirit” rather than the “letter” of the law. Generous but frugal, Gerry researched and improvised ways to accomplish tasks without excess costs and kept his eyes open for opportunistic deals along the way. Nothing went to waste: leftovers (albeit limited by Gerry’s desire to have clean plates at the end of each meal) could be combined creatively at lunch or dinner the next day, so long as volume was achieved. Gerry’s fondness for food made him the ideal dinner guest, always complimenting the chef, but leaving room for ice cream and other late-night snacks.
In reflecting on the life of Gerry Rathouz, we acknowledge the values and lessons he imparted to those who were fortunate enough to have known him. His generosity and sincere heart left a lasting impression on many, and his commitment to giving his family a good life was unwavering. Gerry’s hard work and his belief in the power of kindness shaped his actions and decisions. He was a kind and thoughtful man. Gerry considered himself truly fortunate—but not without worrying—to have a happy, healthy family, and his faith in God was a constant source of strength. We express our heartfelt gratitude for the cherished moments we shared with him and rejoice in celebrating his time on earth with you all here today.
Paul, Maggie, Georgianne, John, Mark