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Obituary: Gerrits, Roger John

Roger John Gerrits

Gerrits, Roger John

Roger John Gerrits, age 89, of Riderwood in Silver Spring, Maryland, passed away on November 7, 2021 of congestive heart failure. Born on February 8, 1932 to Gerald and Leona (Guerts) Gerrits in Green Bay, Wisconsin, he was raised on a dairy farm, learned about hard work at a very young age, and began his education in a one-room school. He graduated from Wrightstown High School, and then earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and his Masters and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. His education was focused on agriculture education, animal science, genetics, and food production.

Interrupting his college studies, Roger served three years in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. It was during this time he met Joan Applebey of Brewster, NY, also in the Air Force. They were married on December 27, 1955, and together had six children.

Roger and the family moved to Maryland in 1962 when he acquired a position with the Swine Research Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a research physiologist. Eventually, he established himself in leadership positions including Research Program Leader for Livestock and Veterinary Sciences, National Program Director for Animal Production, and USDA National Budget Director. These programs focused on swine production and diseases, toxicology of agricultural chemicals, and domestic and international livestock programs.

Roger retired from the USDA in 1998. He was passionate about gardening, and was active in the American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Holy Name Society, PTA, and attending his children’s and grandchildren’s school, arts, and sporting events. He moved to Riderwood Retirement Community in 2015, where he became active with its affiliated Church of the Resurrection. He established agricultural scholarships at his alma maters: Wrightstown High School, the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and the University of Minnesota.

Roger is survived by his children Mary Beth (Danny) Brightwell, Ellicott City, MD, Joanne Spivey, Thurmont, MD, Christine Fisher, Brooklyn, MD, Diane Gerrits, St. Petersburg, FL, Roger (Robyn) Gerrits, St. Petersburg, FL, and Cari Gerrits, Atlanta, GA; five grandchildren, Steven Spivey, Lexi (Dave) Baumgartner, Victoria (John) Felts, Patrick Gerrits, and Phillip Kolb; one great-grandchild, Luke Felts; a sister, Dolores Kettenhofen of Green Bay, WI; sister-in-law, Mary Jane Gerrits of De Pere, WI; former wife, Joan Gerrits, Walkersville, MD; and, numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents; his brother, Gerald Gerrits, Jr.; sisters and brothers-in-law, Norma and Kenneth Buechler, Carol and Russell Titel; brother-in-law, Robert Kettenhofen; and son-in-law forever, Fred Fisher.

Relatives and friends may call from 9 to 10 am at St. Camillus Catholic Church, 1600 St. Camillus Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20903 on Monday, November 22, 2021, where Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 am. Burial will be at St. Paul Catholic Cemetery in Wrightstown, WI in Spring 2022.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Camillus, 1600 St. Camillus Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20903, or Church of the Resurrection, 3315 Greencastle Rd, Burtonsville, MD 20866.

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