BLISSFIELD - Robert Gerten, who retired as Berkey postmaster after 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service and spent much of his life on the farm that had been in his family more than a century, died Wednesday in Herrick Memorial Hospital, Tecumseh, Mich.
He was 71 and died of liver failure caused by a blood disorder that was diagnosed about 10 years ago, his daughter, Jane Brenke, said.
He was the postmaster in Berkey for about 10 years until his retirement in 1992.
Mr. Gerten was hired by the postal service in the early 1960s and assigned to a walking delivery route in Blissfield. During busy times, he helped at the Adrian post office as well, before he became a mail handler at the main Toledo post office, working second-shift for about 10 years.
He delivered mail on a rural route in the Berkey area before becoming postmaster there. The route, which took him about five hours, had about 270 mailboxes.
He was the only son and the youngest of two children born to Edward and Teresa Gerten. They lived on the 60-acre farm that his grandparents bought after moving to Michigan from Germany in the late 1800s.
After graduating from the former Metamora High School in 1948 - where he played basketball - he farmed with his father. They raised more than 225 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat several years.
He continued to work on the 60-acre home farm until last fall.
“He just loved being outdoors and watching things grow,” his son Joseph said. He enjoyed tending strawberries and roses around the house as well as his farm fields.
The U.S. Army drafted him into communications work in Korea from 1951 to 1953. When he returned to Lenawee County, he married the former Viola Retter, a waitress that he had met before he left.
They lived in Blissfield, and he was employed at Snyder's Canoe Factory there, buffing and polishing canoes. His wife became a seamstress, doing alterations at the former Kline's Department Store and making wedding and prom dresses in her home.
Mr. Gerten moonlighted as a residential real estate agent in the Blissfield and Adrian area in the 1970s with the former Cliff Jackson Realty in Blissfield.
In 1980, the Gertens moved back to the farm where Mr. Gerten was born. His wife died in 1995.
He belonged to St. Mary's Church in Assumption, Ohio, in his early and later years when he lived on the farm and St. Peter the Apostle Church and the Knights of Columbus in Blissfield when he lived there. He enjoyed deer hunting and fishing at small lakes in Lenawee County and on trips to northern Michigan.
Surviving are his sons, John and Joseph; daughter, Jane Brenke, and five grandchildren.
The body will be in the Biehl-Malone Funeral Home, Metamora, after 3 p.m. today, with a Rosary recitation at 7:30 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Mary's Church, Assumption.
The family requests tributes to the church or the charity of the donor's choice.
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