Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Gerhard was an impressive man with numerous skills, interests, and academic contributions. In 1961, he transferred his studies from Germany to University of Kansas, where he met the love of his life, Tonya Kurt. Shortly thereafter, Gerhard completed his Ph.D. in history, married Tonya, and accepted a faculty position at Memorial University of Newfoundland. An accomplished scholar respected nationally in his field, Gerhard rose to full professor at MUN and retired in 2003, at which time he was appointed Professor Emeritus. He learned seven languages and published in two. He thoroughly enjoyed his chosen field, devoting endless hours to original research because he believed it was important that the truth be told for future generations.
Gerhard published nine scholarly books, numerous book chapters and academic articles, and an extensive three-volume family history during his lifetime. Vikings to U-Boats won the Rogers Cable Nonfiction Award, which is a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards, and Escape Hatch was shortlisted for the Heritage Book Award.
Gerhard loved his life in Newfoundland. In 1975, he moved his family to St. Mary’s Bay, where he and Tonya became self-taught organic farmers with the first registered farm for Jersey cattle in Newfoundland. In addition to dairy cattle, their livestock included ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys. Gardening was more than just a hobby; it was a lifelong labor of love. Despite Newfoundland’s short growing season and harsh climate, he could make anything flourish. From edible crops to incredible landscaping and indoor blooms, Gerhard’s green thumb was impressive, although he would modestly say that anyone could do it.
Gerhard was intelligent, hardworking, thoughtful, and honest. “A man among men,” as a friend recently described him. He enjoyed challenges and learned how to fix almost anything, from children’s toys to home repairs. His eye would twinkle when he found the solution. To assist his research, Gerhard welcomed technology and became skilled with computers.
His greatest passion, though, was for his large family with whom he loved spending time. Gerhard adored his wife Tonya, who predeceased him in 2017, and embraced his growing family, cherishing every new member. Gerhard’s homemade Spätzle dinners were legendary, as were the bountiful organic salads that went directly from his prolific garden to the table. He generously shared whatever he had, including delighting the young children with delicious dark chocolate. In lively discussions, Gerhard connected current events to historical preludes and precedents, providing a greater understanding of the world we share.
Gerhard passed away peacefully surrounded by his four loving children in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Leaving to mourn are his children Elisabeth (Karl Hammond), Heidi (Todd Newman), Christine (Kris Aubrey-Bassler), and Paul (Sarah Bassler), his brother Jürgen, and his eleven grandchildren: William, James, Emma, Adam, Anna, Maggie, Charlotte, Kurt, Julia, Timothy, and Alex.
The family will receive visitors at Carnell’s Funeral Home, 329 Freshwater Road, on Thursday, March 30 from 7-9pm and Friday, March 31 from 2-4 pm. Funeral service will be held from the St. David’s Presbyterian Church on Saturday, April 1st at 2 pm. Interment to follow in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
Donations in Gerhard’s memory may be made to St. David’s Presbyterian Church or the Canadian Cancer Society.
Carnell’s Funeral Home
329 Freshwater Road
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St. David's Presbyterian Church