A Remembrance and Commentary by Mitch Harper:
Harold was a pastor and a painter. He held an interest in history and, particularly, the history surrounding the Wabash and Erie Canal.
That interest and devotion led him to make an effort to ensure that a key part of Allen County's - and Indiana's - heritage was saved. It was Harold Gerig, who along with his son, scoured the highway construction site near U.S. 24 and the Harper Road when I-469 was being built. That effort led to the saving of the Gronauer Lock, parts of which form a key exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.
It is the only intact wooden lock known to have survived.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is required to conduct archeological impact studies before work commences on a defined project. Oddly, the report prepared for I-469 didn't take note of the fact that the I-469 route was to cross over the route of the Wabash and Erie Canal, let alone note that the possibility existed the Gronauer Lock would be in the construction right-of-way. It was not a competent study.
Mr. Gerig and his son checked daily on the worksite. Late one day, after the earth-moving equipment had ceased, he spotted fragments of wood that had been chewed up by the earthmover. At about 8:45 that evening he called me at home. He wanted to know what could be done to ensure that the highway contractors would not begin construction the next day and cause destruction of the lock. I told him I would help.
I made numerous telephone calls to locate highway or state government officials at home from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis. I had pretty well exhausted my options when I made a last telephone call. That telephone call was an option I didn't really want to use except as a last resort. It was the media card.
I telephoned then News-Sentinel Editor Joe Weiler at home about 10 PM. I told him I had a little story that might interest the newspaper. Joe recognized the story for what it was. I called Harold back and told him I used the one last option I knew to use.
Early the next morning, the reporter to whom Joe Weiler had assigned to the story contacted the district highway office. The work halted. The News-Sentinel had its front page story. And an exceptional part of history was saved.
Since then, Harold's role and that of Joe Weiler and the News-Sentinel has gotten a bit lost. The official story is now largely that the Gronauer Lock was "discovered in the city of New Haven, Ind. in 1991 by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration."
Harold Gerig - a man who loved history, and a man who helped save it for generations to come.
REV. HAROLD WAYNE GERIG, 71, passed onto his heavenly home and in to the loving arms of his Lord and Savior Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007, at 10:15 p.m. He was born in Pontiac, Ill. A graduate of Woodburn High School, he went on to attend Fort Wayne Art School, I.U.P.U., Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne Bible College. While employed by Zeis Security, he was a big influence with Mayor Zeis in initiating the first Fort Wayne Mayoral Prayer breakfast.
His first big church was First Missionary, Lima Ohio, in 1970. He started a ministry to the youths and "street people" on drugs. He traveled a circuit from Lima to Dayton six days a week-preaching the love of God to so many who wouldn't have heard otherwise. Needing employment that would allow him more time with his growing family, he decided to put his artistic abilities to work. He went on to work for two sign companies in Fort Wayne where he did lay-outs and billboard painting, a work he loved.
He was later called to a church in Van Wert, Ohio where along with his preaching he began painting and home-repairs. He moved on to start his own painting company in Indiana.
After his son joined him in the business, he began an inner city ministry in Fort Wayne (Love and Grace Fellowship). Finding many people in need of basic essentials, he began picking up donated items and delivering them to those in need. He also took them food for their body, but the most importantly he took them food for their souls (the word of God). With the ongoing help of his daughter his ministry continues. He left this earth a frail and humble man with the scripture of God, well done good and faithful servant.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years whom he had known since age three, Gloria E. (Basting); children, Debbra (Victor) Potts, Jennifer (Rejean) Ducet, Harold George (Monna) Gerig II, Joseph Gerig, Gloria N.R. (Chris) Birkenbeul, and David (Stephanie) Gerig; grandchildren, Angela (Jeff), Corrie (Luscian), Alisha (Casey), Renee, Seth (Sheree), Amanda (Tom), Emily, Harold Andrew III, Tyler, Jackson, Brooke, Alexis and Paige; and 10 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his adopted mother, Ida Gerig; brothers, Ivan (Sharon), Jerry (Chris), Donald (Paulette), Dennis (Patty); biological sisters, Helen and Peggy (Clarence), and brother, Victor; half siblings, Carol, Marjorie, Barb, Beatrice, Patty, Donald, Diana, and Dean; and many nieces and nephews.
He is joined in heaven by his birth parents, Glen and Lillian Arnold; adopted father, Harry J. Gerig; in-laws, George and Grace Basting; grandson, Alexander Colson; stepmother, Violet Marie; brother, Ronald; sister, Betty; and half brothers, Richard and Albert Arnold.
Memorial service is 2 p.m. Monday at Westwood Fellowship, 4100 Becker Road, Woodburn, with calling two hours prior to service. The family will also receive friends after service until 7 p.m. at the church. Memorials to Woodburn EMS and Fire, and Harold's Ministry Love and Grace Fellowship. Arrangements by E. Harper & Son Funeral Home, 740 Indiana Hwy 930 E, New Haven.