Gerald M. Gurtzweiler, a World War II paratrooper who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and spent his entire career in the grocery business, most of it in Fulton County, died Thursday at Ebeid Hospice in Sylvania.
Mr. Gurtzweiler, 87, lived in Holland since 1990. His son Douglas said the cause of death was not known, although his father’s health had been deteriorating.
Mr. Gurtzweiler owned and operated Gerry’s IGA in Delta for 36 years. Before that, he was a meat cutter for Kroger’s in Napoleon, a job he took shortly after his discharge in 1946.
“My dad worked almost seven days a week,” his son said.
“We never took a vacation until I was 14 years old.”
He was born Aug. 7, 1925, in Petersburg, Mich., to Alfred and Hazel Gurtzweiler.
His father worked for the railroad, and one of his transfers was to Napoleon, where Gerald Gurtzweiler graduated from high school.
He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and after basic training, he elected to join the paratroopers “because it paid 50 bucks extra a month.”
He served with the 82nd Airborne’s newly activated 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which saw combat in Sicily and later in France.
After regrouping in England, his regiment was sent to Holland, where it fought in the Ardennes Offensive and the Battle of the Bulge, his son said.
Mr. Gurtzweiler, a nonsmoker, sold his cigarette rations and was able to save enough money to afford a “rest and recreation” trip to Paris, a wartime trip he often recalled with fondness.
“Most of the men in his unit turned it down because they didn’t have enough spending money,” his son said.
He was sent to Berlin in April, 1945, and stayed there with the occupational forces after the war until his discharge.
He was awarded a Militaire Willems Order Holland for his service in that country, as well as a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds received in the Battle of the Bulge, four bronze stars, and a bronze arrowhead.
After returning to Napoleon, he was employed by Kroger’s as a meat cutter until he purchased Kling’s grocery on Delta’s Main Street in 1950.
At the time, there were six grocers in the village.
By the time he retired and sold the store in 1986, two stores remained.
Because of Mr. Gurtzweiler’s skill as a meat cutter, Gerry’s became well-known for its meat.
Cattle were purchased at the local livestock market and butchered in house, his son said.
“It was the last of the old-time meat stores,” his son said.
One of his few hobbies was performing with the American Legion drill team, The Staccatos.
The group of about two dozen veterans performed precision routines and synchronizations at area events and competed nationally, winning championships in St. Louis and Washington.
According to a 1955 story in The Blade, The Staccatos won five straight state titles and national championships in 1953 and 1954.
In addition to belonging to American Legion Post 373 in Delta, he belonged to Delta Eagles Aerie 2597.
Surviving are his wife of 64 years, Louise M. Gurtzweiler; son, Douglas; daughters, Debera Serna and Jody Szykowny; eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Services are at 10 a.m. today at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Neville Funeral Home in Springfield Township is handling arrangements.
The family suggests tributes to American Legion Post 373 or Ebeid Hospice.
Contact Jim Sielicki at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.
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