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Gerald "Jerry" Allen Vanek

February 15, 1939 ~ May 3, 2020 (age 81)


Gerald Allen Vanek “Jerry” died peacefully on May 3, 2020, at the age of 81, after a courageous battle with Prostate Cancer and Parkinson’s disease. 

Jerry is survived by his daughter Robin (Kevin) and his sons Mark (Sue) and Todd (Mandy), brother Rich (Rae) and his many grandchildren Macy, Nathan (Sabrina), Justin, Jakob, Dyllan, Kameron, Izaac, Brady, and great granddaughter Sophia.   He is proceeded in death by his brother Ron & grandson Christopher. 

Jerry was born February 15, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Melvin and Ellen Vanek.  He graduated from Hopkins High School and then graduated from Mankato State University with a degree in Education and Coaching.  He married Blondie (Laverne) Carlson and they spent their early years in Renville, Minnesota where Jerry pursued a teaching career along with coaching. He was the head varsity basketball coach during those years at Renville.  Coaching was always a passion for Jerry, particularly basketball where he led his Renville team to back to back state appearances.  He was offered the opportunity to teach and coach in Brainerd in 1971 and never looked back. 

Jerry went on to teach and coach numerous sports including many youth sports later on in life. He had fond memories during this time and was very influential to many kids learning the game of basketball and life in general. Jerry was a wonderful father, grandfather, friend and coach to many.  Jerry was a stringent coach, but he was always fair and was looking out for the best interest of the kids.  He often developed lifelong friendships with them long after his coaching days were done. He truly impacted many people’s lives in a positive manner and will be greatly missed. 

Jerry moved on from teaching and had a wonderful 25 year career in the insurance business until he ultimately retired in 2016.  Jerry was also an avid athlete and played competitive sports growing up that continued later on in life in softball and other recreational leagues.  As Jerry’s kids and grandkids grew, he would often be seen at the ballpark and various activities coaching them or cheering them on in everything they were involved in.  Jerry also had a strong passion for golf later on in life and would often spend his afternoons with friends and family on the golf course.  He was always entertaining to golf with, as he often expressed his frustrations routinely with the game that he loved.  We all would chuckle and he would laugh with us afterwards. 

Jerry enjoyed spending time at the family cabin on Blackwater Lake where he spent many summers as a youth fishing, vacationing with his parents, siblings, and eventually his own family.  The cabin always had a special place in Jerry’s heart and was truly home to him. 

At this time no funeral or reception will be held, but a celebration of life will be held at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, gifts or donations, the family asks that you simply reflect on your fondest memory of Jerry and carry that with you. 

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