On the morning of August 8, 2015, Eleanor died peacefully at home surrounded by her family. She was 89 years old.
Eleanor was born on April 9, 1926, in Wausau, Wisconsin. She was the third of four children born to William and Signe Berard. Eleanor grew up on the family farm east of Wausau and was always happiest surrounded by animals and the outdoors. She graduated from Wausau High School in 1943. She worked delivering milk for the Berard dairy and later took a job at the shoe factory in Wausau. While still in
high school she met the love of her life, Gerrit “Chub” Van Der Geest. In those early years they enjoyed horseback riding, going dancing, and spending time on their family farms. When Chub was drafted into the United States Air Force to fight in World War II, Eleanor waited patiently for his safe return. He was released in June of 1945, they were engaged soon after, and were married on March 2, 1946.
They continued the family business by running Van Der Geest Livestock. Eleanor acted as the bookkeeper while also raising their family of four. Eleanor was very active in her community serving on many different committees over the years. She was a member of the Merrill Homemaker’s Club and remained friends with that group throughout her life. She was an active member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church and enjoyed being the greeter at the annual Lutefisk Dinner for many years. Eleanor was the overseer of several rental properties and was also involved in the Merrill Renter’s Association. She was known for raising superior German Shepherds, many which were used as police and service dogs. Later in life she found tremendous enjoyment in raising mini horses. She loved looking at
them through the family room window and described it as her moving picture. Eleanor was well known for her quick wit, huge heart, and strong will. She was a true socialite who loved sharing the simple joys of life with family and friends; enjoying a good meal, winning at the casino, telling stories of long ago, relaxing on the screen porch at the cottage. She supported her children and grandchildren in all of their endeavors and regularly attended their events including showing steers at the Lincoln County 4-H Fair,
wrestling matches, beauty pageants, Gymkana, football games, rodeos, hockey games and stock car races. She was a woman who wouldn’t accept the words ‘no’ or ‘can’t’.
Two of her favorite mottos were “Live, Love, Laugh” and “Git ‘er done!” Wherever she went, Eleanor was always surrounded by fun and laughter. Eleanor was preceded in death by her parents, William and Signe Berard; son, Gary Van Der Geest; brother, Jerry Berard; sister-in-law, Annabelle Berard; sister, Lorraine Holster; brother-in law, Robert ‘Bud’ Holster; father-in-law, Joe Van Der Geest; mother-in-law, Anna Van Der Geest; brother-in-law, Rich Van Der Geest, brother-in-law, Donald Van Der Geest;
sister-in-law, Anita Van Der Geest, brother-in-law, Dale Stevenson; and brother-in-law Raymond “Dutch” Van Dyke. Eleanor is survived by her loving husband of 69 years, Chub Van Der Geest; daughter, Vicki (Jim) Killfoil; son, Scott (Sue) Van Der Geest; son, Jay (Kristin) Van Der Geest; grandchildren, Amy (Jeff) Butler; Lee (Katy) Van Der Geest, Beth (Gabe) Gwaltney, Johnny (Julie) Zarvos, Kimberly (Josh) Merrell, Andy (Ashley Walters) Van Der Geest, Bradley Van Der Geest, Kristin Van Der Geest, and Levon Van Der Geest; great grandchildren, Dorian Zarvos, Kailey Zarvos, Ace Zarvos, Chase Merrell, Blake Merrell, and Gage Merrell; daughter-in-law, Mary Kay Van Der Geest; special cousin Robert (Dorothy) Johnson, as well as many other cousins, nephews and nieces.
Funeral Services for Eleanor will be held on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 3pm at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Merrill, WI. Rev. Dennis R. Creswell will officiate. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 from 4pm-7pm at Waid Funeral Home in Merrill, WI. Entombment will take place at a later date.
The family would like to give special thanks to the caregivers at Stoney River Assisted Living, Bell Tower Residence, TLC Home Care, and Hospice Services. Waid Funeral Home of Merrill is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences can be made at www.waidfuneral.com.