Geraldine "Gerry" Amy Bestmann, 89, a resident of Marshalltown, IA passed away quietly with her family at her bedside on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at MMSC. She had soldiered on bravely with quiet dignity and pride during her last years of an incurable disease.
Gerry was born September 10, 1924 in Shelby, Iowa, the first of 3 children to Florence and Thornton Eckel, she grew up on a farm in Shelby and was President and Valedictorian of her Shelby Consolidated High School class of 1942. She played first chair clarinet and soloed at the Iowa State high school band competition. In Omaha she studied at secretarial school and worked at the Martin Marietta Bomber plant during WWII. She went on to become secretary to Professor Henry Black, head of the Mechanical Engineering department at Iowa State University. Gerry first met her future husband, Bill Bestmann, in first grade, and they married on May 27, 1945 after his return from service in the U.S. Army Air Corps. They settled in Marshalltown and enjoyed an inseparable and wonderfully devoted union which would endure for nearly 69 years.
Gerry is survived by her husband, Bill; youngest sister Jane Hornbecker of Colorado; son Jay Bestmann (Pam), of LaGrange, IL, 2 daughters Rinda Madden (Dennis) of Rochester, NH, Shelley McCarthy (Brian) of Pacific Palisades, CA; and 2 grandchildren Kiley McCarthy of Los Angeles, CA and Bryn McCarthy of New York, NY, and several nieces and nephews. The Bestmann's hosted two AFS high school exchange students, Don Pinel of Brisbane, Australia and Annie Sarfati of Paris, France - both of whom remain close members of her family. Gerry is predeceased by her parents and a younger sister, Norma Reynolds.
Gerry's family lived in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada and Pittsburgh, PA as Bill pursued his career with Fisher Governor Company, eventually returning to Marshalltown, IA where the family resided from 1966 to the present. She enjoyed travelling with Bill on both business and pleasure trips in the US and abroad. Family was the focal point of Gerry's life, and her extended families included her local Pittsburgh and Iowa communities for which she spent tireless volunteer hours for numerous charitable activities including the United Methodist Women, PEO where she was a charter/founder member of chapter NU, auxiliary hospital groups - eventually serving on the Board of Marshalltown Community Hospital, Marshalltown YM/YWCA Heritage Club, Girl Scouts, Souvenir Bridge Club and PTA. She and Bill served as fundraising co-chairs for the Bobcat marching band's 1970 Rose Bowl parade trip. Gerry loved to cook and entertain in her home and would often prepare extensive dinners on short notice for friends, family, and particularly for Bill's business colleagues and customers. She was an accomplished seamstress, an avid golfer and bridge player, including for eight years with a group of close Pittsburgh church friends who met at least monthly. She also enjoyed the creativity of gardening and flower arranging and was a lover of music, singing in the church choir and encouraging a life-long love of music in all of her children. Gerry was known by all as a consummate organizer, goer and a doer. Her cooking, baking, entertaining and improvising skills were legendary, much-loved and active until very late in life not just at home, but often on the road at impromptu picnics and on family camping trips. Her noteworthy culinary treats ranged from spam-in-a-can to turkey tetrazzini to lobsters boiled over a particularly memorable campfire in Maine. Spectacular peach, cherry, and apple pies were among her many delicious signature dishes. She will be remembered for her high standards and warm-hearted generosity of spirit, patriotism and a strong sense of duty to family, church and community, her articulate prose and remarks at family gatherings, and at times, her feistiness.
Memorial services will be held 10:30 a.m., Saturday, January 25, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Marshalltown. The Main St. Chapel of the Anderson Funeral Homes in Marshalltown has been entrusted with the arrangements. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial contributions be made to Marshalltown Community YM/YWCA Heritage Club, or MMSC Foundation.