Visitation from 1PM until the start of the service.
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Life Story / Obituary
Bright and beautiful, Janice Ann Gerber lived a life rich in faith and family. A natural extrovert, Janice loved people, especially children. A woman who embodied the principles of her Christian faith, she welcomed strangers as friends and had a way of making everyone feel at ease. From a very young age, she answered the call to service, committing much of her life to supporting and encouraging children in their academic and faith journeys. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, Janice's greatest joy was her family. A gift to all who were blessed to know her, Janice will long be remembered and so very missed.
As war gave way to peace and civil rights became a dramatic force in U.S. history, 1952 marked a period of progress and optimism. With the birth of the Baby Boom generation, the focus was on hard work and affording our children a better life. The middle-class standard of living continued to grow and appeared to have no boundaries; it was a time of much hope. Nowhere was there a greater cause to celebrate the possibilities of hope than in the hearts and home of Carl and Hirrel (Hector) Abrahamson as they welcomed their daughter Janice into their hearts and home on July 29.
Janice grew up on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids, where she and her family were members of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and she attended the local public schools. Her father was an accountant for General Motors, and her mother was a Registered Nurse. Though she didn't like school, she applied herself and always did well, graduating from Ottawa Hills High School in the top 10 of the class of 1970. As a teen, she worked a part-time job and volunteered as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
After graduating from high school, Janice continued to answer the call to serve young people by moving to California to work for the Young Life Christian ministry. For a year, she dedicated herself to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow their faith. It was during this year of ministry that she also met and became lifelong friends with Lauralee.
Upon returning to West Michigan, Janice furthered her education at the Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music. As she worked toward her degree in education, she grabbed the attention of fellow theology class student Jerry Gerber. Despite his efforts, he couldn't get her attention and finally decided to sit in her regular seat. Though initially unimpressed by Jerry's charms, she agreed to a date. Jerry took her out to a Chinese restaurant, and despite the fact that Janice hated Chinese food, she couldn't help but fall for Jerry.
With their hearts set on sharing the future, the happy couple married on August 17, 1974, at First Evangelical Covenant Church. The newlyweds honeymooned in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, while making their way to Bryan College in Dayton, TN, to continue their educations.
After graduating with her degree in 1975, Janice taught kindergarten while Jerry was still in school. Once he graduated in 1976, they joyfully adopted their daughter, Emily and also returned to Grand Rapids. There, Janice worked in a daycare and worked with individuals living with developmental disabilities at Pine Rest. In time, she secured a teaching position with Greenville Public Schools. Throughout her career, Janice was a dedicated educator, respected for her grit and determination, attention to detail, and unwavering dedication to her first-grade students at Cedar Crest Elementary.
Balancing careers and family, Janice and Jerry were happy to welcome their son Joshua to the family in 1978, and when their son Tim arrived in 1987, the family was complete. As Jerry worked the third shift, Janice spent a lot of time with the kids, but Jerry did the cooking. Summer was the family's favorite season as Janice and the kids settled in at the family cottage in Cadillac. She enjoyed taking the kids to the beach every day when possible. She refused to get her hair wet, only venturing into the lake to her waist to cool off, much preferring sunbathing in her chair on the beach while the kids played. Fair-skinned, her time in the sun more than often resulted in sunburn and vinegar baths upon arriving home.
Proud of her Swedish Heritage, Janice cherished her Swedish prayers and decorations. Sundays were for church, attending services twice that day, and Saturdays focused on cleaning the house with the kids while listening to loud music. Don McLean's American Pie or early 60's Rock and Roll were her favorites. Janice's love for candy was the stuff of legend. If she'd had her way, candy would have been her only food group. She preferred fast food, Coca-Cola, and chocolate. She enjoyed red-dyed pistachios, while Lemon Heads, Good and Plenty, frozen Snickers, Boston Beans, and peanut M&Ms were regular staples. Quiet time at home often included watching Judge Judy on the TV and working on a cross-stitch project.
In 1997, Janice was honored as the Greenville teacher of the year, a much deserve affirmation of her hard work and dedication to her students and the community. In 2012, as she was facing some health issues, Janice chose to accept an early retirement incentive. To be closer to their son, Joshua, and her medical team, Janice and Jerry moved to a condominium in Grand Rapids that same year.
Retirement agreed with Janice as it afforded more time to babysit her grandchildren, go to the beach, and of course, shop! She liked to hunt for a deal but was indecisive, so that could be a problem. Nevertheless, she continued to delight in shopping and going to the beach even when her health continued to decline, and she needed the support of a wheelchair. Daily prayers and reading the news nourished her spirit and intellect while watching reality TV and eating out at Peppermill Grill proved entertaining. Christmas and Black Friday were longtime favorite times of the year. She enjoyed trips to Branson, Mackinaw Island, Pigeon Forge, and her favorite, hands down, going to Chicago to shop.
A true joy and an inspiration, Janice was a well-loved and treasured companion. While life feels significantly duller in the absence of her bright spirit, may we find comfort in knowing she is free of the physical constraints she endured for many years. May we also find comfort in carrying her beautiful legacy forward. In each moment, we relish a day at the beach, finding a great deal, generously giving of our time and talents in service of others, enjoying a sweet indulgence, and gathering with our loved ones, we celebrate the many ways Janice gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Janice Ann Gerber age 70, of Grand Rapids, went to be with her Heavenly Father on December 31, 2022. She was preceded in death by her parents, Carl and Hirrel Abrahamson; and her niece and nephew, Lindsay and Casey Dykhouse. Janice is survived by her husband of 48 years, Jerry; children, Emily (Kimberly DeWalt) Gerber, Joshua (Karrie) Gerber, and Timothy (Heather) Gerber; 15 grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are her siblings, Timothy (Muffi) Abrahamson, Beth (Dan) Dykhouse, and Bill (Sandie) Abrahamson; brother-in-law, Dwain (Janice) Gerber; sister-in-law, Kay McLellan; and many nieces and nephews.
The Memorial Service will be held at 2 PM on Friday, January 13, 2023, at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont NW. Visitation will be for one hour prior to the service. Contributions in her memory may be made to Pregnancy Resource Center. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read her life story, submit a favorite memory or photo or sign the guestbook.