Gerald "Jerry" Seidl
Gerald Dorsey "Jerry" Seidl entered the game on Jan. 9, 1933, in Tecumseh, Neb., and left it on Dec. 4, 2020. He was the son of a former general store owner and a former schoolteacher. After a series of WPA jobs, his father caught on at the Martin Bomber plant in Omaha early in the war, and the family at last escaped the Depression. From this point, Jerry used a combination of common sense, tool skill, competitiveness, athletic talent and unusual intellectual ability to create a life of great accomplishment, amusement, collegiality and affection.
After graduating from Omaha North High School at 16, he earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Creighton University in six years, despite spending as much of his free time as he could playing pick-up basketball with, among others, Bob Gibson (although Jerry was already a Cardinals fan because of Stan Musial). While clerking at Gross, Welch, Vinardi & Kauffman, he met Phyllis Hagemann and somehow convinced her to marry him on June 25, 1955. He then served in the Army for two years, one year in Korea in counterintelligence, before settling down to a job at Home Insurance in Omaha.
Ultimately, Jerry arrived at a position as general counsel of United Fire & Casualty in Cedar Rapids and was employed as such from 1965 to 1999. As Scott McIntyre said at his retirement, "He was a good attorney. He kept us out of trouble." During these years, Jerry was raising a family of seven and kept them out of trouble, too.
Jerry's work and play were always efficient and creative. Some of his best times were spent rebuilding cars (Van Dyke Auto Salvage was like a playground to him), piecing together clocks and completing home projects with the skills he'd developed one collegiate summer as a finish carpenter. He bowled, golfed, played tennis and always had time to throw a ball with his daughters and sons. He was fierce at bridge and would break down hands from memory in detail, much to any partner's chagrin. "I don't understand people who say they play to have fun. Isn't it more fun to win?" If you ever saw one of his topspin returns crossing the net, you understood he played with his mind even more than with his hands and feet.
But he was also goofy and sweet. He loved sing-alongs in piano bars, like the old Colony Marketplace. He was an excellent whistler, even after he forgot the words to the songs he still knew and loved ("Side By Side" was Phyllis' and his theme song). Growing up he'd sing his kids to sleep with "Mairzy Doats" or the song about the frozen logger. When his kids grew up and married, Phyllis and he would take them on trips to Germany as a wedding present. (We all know the words to the Schnitzelbank song.)
He was always the biggest fan of whatever his kids were doing, whether playing a musical instrument, softball or role in a play. He could be a creature of habit, if that meant going to the Knights of Columbus in Marion for pancakes after church on first Sundays; competing in trivia contests with his kids on Fridays after work; or going on almost annual trips to Colorado where we'd hike to the tops of fourteeners, ride bikes and visit breweries. Occasionally he'd take us on special family trips to Hawaii, California, Playa del Carmen or Ireland, and we have the commemorative t-shirts to prove it.
His leadership abilities and varied interests led him to become a regional director of the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters society; a member of the Linn County Estate Planning Council; president of the Cedar Rapids Literary Club; member of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan School District Board of Education; president of the St. Pius X Parish Council; member of the Dubuque Archdiocesan Council; board member of Methwick; and 50-year member of the Iowa Bar and Linn County Bar. For all that, his most cherished membership was in the Friday Morning Group, an association of less than a dozen Catholic men who have been meeting informally every week for over 40 years to share and support one another's faith.
Jerry loved Christmas and everything about it from corny movies to caroling but he was especially proud of the fifteen-foot-high wooden star we hoisted onto the roof every year as our main decoration. We will always think of him when we hear "White Christmas."
Jerry could strike up a conversation with anyone, from a concrete finisher to a Supreme Court justice, and always came away having learned something and with understanding and respect for the other person's work. He was a breakneck driver who never had accidents. He loved puns and manhattans. He collected oxymorons, among his favorites was "excess frosting.. He was a passionate Nebraska Cornhusker fan, but never saw them play because he suffered from an unusual curse: whenever he watched them on television, they lost. He never saw a flea market, garage sale, or thrift store that he could pass up, which is how he wound up with a plow and a corn sheller despite never owning a farm. He was a dedicated user of his analog task manager, a small notepad in his left shirt pocket that kept track of everything.
Above all, he was a creative problem solver and the first and best person to turn to for life advice, a car repair or a home project consultation. He was always the smartest guy in the room, and particularly enjoyed meetings when he had a good idea and could make someone else think it was theirs.
Jerry suffered from Alzheimer's Disease in his last years but maintained his dignity and courage and never quit. With typical selflessness, he arranged to donate his body to the University of Iowa in hopes of contributing to research that might find a cure.
Jerry is survived by Phyllis, his wife of 65 years; his children, Phill (Lauri) Seidl, Mark (Anne) Seidl, Mary (Tony) Chicchelly and Rebecca (Joe) Lesnik, all of Cedar Rapids, Ann (Rich) Diers of Lincoln, Neb., Dan (Wanda) Seidl of Greenwell Springs, La., and Sarah (Kari) Seidl of Tiffin; and his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The family would ask that if you would wish to send flowers, please instead send donations to the Alzheimer's Association; and if you would give food, please instead give to HACAP for people still suffering food insecurity in the wake of COVID-19 and the derecho, or to St. Pius X Parish due to the damage to its sanctuary.
A Celebration of Life will take place in the early summer of 2021.
Online condolences may be left for Jerry's family at www.cedarmemorial.com under obituaries.