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On Thursday, September 7, 2023, Geraldine “Gerry” Louise Dunch Orr peacefully passed away surrounded by comfort and care at KentRidge Senior Living in Kent, Ohio.
Gerry was born November 22, 1942 in Maple Heights, Ohio. She is survived by her husband of 59 years Dr. Lowell P. Orr of Kent; sister Donna Dunch of Rome, Italy; sister-in-law Evelyn Orr Reisinger of Kingston; children Erin E. (David) Merritt of Troy and Ryan D. Orr of Kent; grandchildren Matt (Katie) Merritt of Lakeland, Georgia, Ben Merritt of Troy, and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Louis and Joan Dunch of Maple Heights; in-laws Fred B. and Elizabeth Clione Orr; brothers and sisters-in-law Marcus T. and Jeannine Orr, Thoburn L. and Mary S. Orr, and Jack D. Reisinger of Chillicothe, Columbus and Kingston.
Gerry graduated from Maple Heights High School, Class of 1960, and Kent State University, Class of 1964.
Gerry took the pieces of her world that surrounded her and made them better, stronger, healthier, and more beautiful.
Her childhood was filled with memories of growing up in Maple Heights and Petersburg, Illinois. Tap shoes and batons, piano lessons, and perms transitioned to high school best friends, teenage adventures, and a class valedictorian ranking. Childhood friends from these earliest years stayed close throughout her entire life. After graduation she headed to Kent State University, meeting friends that became bridesmaids, and went on to raise children together. She graduated with a B.S. in Education – and a few months later a husband as well, marrying Lowell on July 11, 1964.
A honeymoon took them to the Smoky Mountains and later to the West. Camping and hiking adventures have stories that are now legend, and the natural beauty that surrounded them was an inspiration for much of their married lives in their travel, landscape design, and artwork in their home.
She became a biology teacher at Cuyahoga Falls High School where she taught for several years before becoming an incredible homemaker.
As a wife, she helped build a house that became a home. Her attention to detail and timeless sense of design created a place that welcomed family, friends, and neighbors around a dining table filled with home cooked meals and a fireplace that supported conversations year round. As the calendar changed and decades passed, she kept up with every new chapter, breathing life into each seasonal beginning. The house was filled with crafts she made reflecting that artistic skill through needlework, sewing, flower arranging, and weaving. Pets filled any quiet moments and included a chicken, salamanders, a crazy Brittany Spaniel, a loyal Golden Retriever, and cats with personalities that kept the days full even after the house emptied of children.
She took the inspiration of favorite woodland landscapes and turned their yard into an artistic palette, lush with a green that created a peace that welcomed wildlife favorites like wood thrushes, woodpeckers, wrens, an occasional hawk, chipmunks, black squirrels, and deer. The backyard became a showcase, serving as a part of the Kent Home and Garden Tour several times.
As a mother, she epitomized what unconditional love is, supporting her children Erin and Ryan, later son-in-law Dave, and grandchildren Matt, Ben, and Katie in every aspect. Giving all of herself, she attended any event, practice, celebration, or faced hardship with her whole heart. Every holiday brought heartfelt gifts, carefully wrapped and tied up long before they needed to be delivered and care packages for any time in between. She was at the end of the phone line for every long distance call, next to others for every sickness or recovery, in the car for any unexpected life event, and generously provided any resource needed. Nana’s kitchen always had fresh baked cookies and her playroom full of toys, but the time she spent doting on her family was what filled hearts.
The neighborhood formed the immediate community. Sprinklers, sparklers, Big Wheels, badminton, daytime playdates and early evening games of flashlight tag all served as the background noise of motherhood. Parents who sat on porches sharing stories over coffee or pounding the pavement in evening walks and discussions over teenagers ruled with a supportive hand and built memories many only dream of. Picnics and cocktail gatherings turned into farewells as the original Dansel Street gang grew up, grew older, and moved away, but the heart of that group became the fabric of what wraps us all in history and culture.
In the larger community, she served and participated in a wide variety of groups. From the Kent State University Women’s Club to PTO, she was there as a voice for her husband, kids and the community they shared. An avid participant in the Elm Garden Club and Portage County Gardeners for years, she loved learning more about gardening and excelled in flower arranging competitions using elements of her yard and home of Kent to exhibit the beauty in the world around her. She was also a member of the PEO and Coterie, giving and serving as her network and connections thrived, and she and Lowell enjoyed staying active with monthly dinners with KSU biology friends.
She loved lunches with friends, shopping excursions, travel, and a good charcuterie board long before it became all the rage. A talented, giving, and generous soul, Gerry’s presence in this world will be greatly missed while her influence will live on in the great legacy she leaves. As the foliage changes and the next season arrives for each of us, remember her in the sunflowers and the brilliance of nature's last burst before families head inside for warm coffee, traditional holiday meals, and time together. She would love that, too.
Friends and family are invited to stop in to celebrate her life on Saturday, October 14, 2023 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., at Over Easy at the Depot in Kent. A family graveside interment at Standing Rock Cemetery will take place at a later date.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to the Portage County Park District.
Services in care of Bissler and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory, 628 W. Main St. Kent, OH 44240.