Cover photo for Paul Gerdemann's Obituary
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Paul Gerdemann

July 18, 1926 — February 13, 2021

Paul Gerdemann

Paul Edward Gerdemann, 94, of Farmington passed away suddenly on the evening of February 13, 2021. Paul was born July 18, 1926 in Warren County, Missouri, to Carl Edward Gerdemann and Cora Wessel Gerdemann. His early years were spent around the Gerdemann family store, run by his father and his uncle, Marion O. Gerdemann, near Pendleton in Warren County. When he wasn’t helping around the store or attending the one-room schoolhouse in Pendleton, he was exploring the area fields, woods and creeks developing his great love for the outdoors.


After graduating from Warrenton High School in 1944, Paul enlisted in the Merchant Marine serving in the Pacific theatre. His ship ferried supplies all over the Pacific and took part in the invasion of Okinawa where it came under attack from Japanese aircraft. After his discharge from the Merchant Marine in 1946, Paul returned to Missouri and enrolled in the University of Missouri - Columbia in the fall of 1947.


At the University Paul studied geology eventually specializing in the then new field of sedimentology. During the summers he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the blister rust control program in the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forests in southern Oregon. Paul credits this work with teaching him how to cover ground quickly which helped him greatly in his geology career.


While working at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital in Columbia to pay his way through college, Paul met a young nurse named Wanda Ruth Estes. They fell in love and were married on September 1, 1951, in Jefferson City. After his graduation in the spring of 1952 Paul went to work for the St. Joseph Lead Company in Bonne Terre. He and Wanda settled into a small company house in Rivermines, and on February 26, 1953 their son Edward was born. During this time Paul was involved in the discovery of the lead ore bodies at Viburnum.


Despite his service in a combat zone in World War II, Paul and other Merchant Marine veterans were not granted official veterans status after the war. In the fall of 1954 Paul was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was trained to teach surveying and was stationed at Fort Belvior just outside Washington DC. Wanda and Ed were able to join him there, and they spent many weekends exploring the historic sites near Washington.


After Paul’s discharge in 1956 the family moved back to the Lead Belt where Paul rejoined St. Joe. In the spring of 1957 he was sent to Salem, Missouri, to geologically map the area south of the Viburnum ore discoveries. In a little over a year he mapped over 1000 square miles, his work leading to the discovery of the Fletcher and Brushy Creek ore bodies. Paul’s time in Salem was one of the happiest of his life. Working out of his home and supplied with a company Jeep, he worked in the woods nearly every day - something he dearly loved. In addition he discovered the good fishing and hunting opportunities in that part of the Ozarks. He, Wanda and a very young Ed took numerous float trips on the Big Piney River and as well as fishing at Logger’s Lake, Montauk and the numerous small streams in the area. He also renewed his love for squirrel hunting, something he had done a lot of as a boy.


In June of 1958 the family returned to Bonne Terre where Paul continued his exploration work for St. Joe. After living in Bonne Terre for several years, they moved to Flat River (now Park Hills) and eventually settled in Farmington in 1963. Paul was promoted to chief geologist of St. Joe’s Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling division in 1964. During this period he continued to enjoy family fishing trips, making numerous trips to Ontario as well as Montana, Oregon and Maine. The family also continued to enjoy many shorter trips to Table Rock, Norfolk and Bull Shoals lakes as well as taking float trips on the Ozark float streams. When Ed was old enough, he and Paul spent many autumn days quail hunting in the Farmington area.


Paul and the family were also huge fans of St. Louis Cardinal baseball and University of Missouri Tiger football, taking in many games in person as well as following on radio and television. There were very few weekends that the Gerdmanns didn’t go somewhere even if it was just a Sunday drive and picnic.


In 1975 Ed graduated from the University of Missouri and moved to Arizona. At that time St. Joe moved its offices to Viburnum. Paul and Wanda had a home built there and moved in July, 1976. Paul continued his duties at Chief Geologist, and was also promoted to the position of Vice President for Exploration - duties that took him to Europe, Australia and Brazil.  Paul retired from St. Joe in September, 1986. He and Wanda continued to live in Viburnum but began spending winters in Arizona to be close to Ed and his family. They eventually purchased a home in Sun City West on the northwest side of the Phoenix metropolitan area where they enjoyed the warm, sunny winter weather and Ed’s family. They spent the warmer months in Viburnum gardening, fishing at Council Bluffs and Bull Shoals lakes and taking many other trips. A big highlight of these years was their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in September 2001.


Paul and Wanda loved being grandparents and looked forward to summer visits from grandchildren Jon and Bethany. Paul loved taking them to the creek to catch crawdads, fishing with them at Council Bluffs Lake and fossil hunting, while Wanda loved cooking and baking for them teaching them her secrets in these areas. They also enjoyed seeing Jon and Bethany in the winter in Arizona with Christmas always being a big celebration.


In 2004 Paul and Wanda decided moving back and forth between Missouri and Arizona was getting to be too much and decided to go back to living in Missouri full time. They sold both their Sun City West and Viburnum homes and had a house built in Farmington. Unfortunately Wanda’s mental health started deteriorating from dementia. For several years Paul took care of her at home, but finally in 2009 she had to go into the Presbyterian Home in Farmington. This saddened Paul very much as the two had been inseparable 58 years. Ever the loyal husband, Paul went up to the home virtually every day, often twice a day, to see to her welfare. Despite her declining mental state, Paul could not be separated from her and was at her side when she passed away on October 20, 2014.


Paul spent his remaining years in his Farmington home. He enjoyed visits from his family and friends with the last big family gathering occurring at Thanksgiving, 2019. He never lost his mental faculties and was able to drive his car right until the end. Unfortunately due to the COVID situation none of his family was able to visit him over his last year, however he talked on the phone with Ed weekly and with other family members often. In fact, on the day he died he and Ed spoke over the phone that morning for about an hour.


Paul was preceded in death by his parents Carl and Cora Gerdemann, his brothers James and David Gerdemann and his wife Wanda. He is survived by his son Ed and his wife Judy of Phoenix, Arizona; grandson Jonathan Gerdemann of Lodi, California, and granddaughter Bethany Gerdemann and her husband Rahul Gowda and great granddaughter Koel of Berkeley, California and numerous family members and friends.


A Memorial Visitation will be held Saturday, April 24, 2021 from 1:30 PM until the time of a Celebration of Life Service at 2:30 PM at the C.Z. Boyer & Son Funeral Home – Taylor Chapel in Farmington. Masks or face coverings will be required before entering the building.

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