Nadine Mae Munns Gerkey
August 11, 1927 — July 15, 2020
Nadine Mae Munns Gerkey, born August 11, 1927, a great granddaughter of Frenchtown farming pioneers, Beldam Damase and Mary Parmela Bergevin, passed away July 15, 2020, at the Washington State Veterans Administration Nursing Home in Walla Walla, after a 13 year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
She was the first woman “hard news” reporter for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin in 1949 and the first journalism instructor at Walla Walla Community College in 1967. Riding a horse with her sister Nydia Jane from the Bergevin Springs home to the one room schoolhouse at Valley Grove for grades 1-3, Nadine was often the only student at her grade level. Moving to the family’s Harvey Shaw wheat ranch in 1936, Munns-Gerkey again attended a one room Hadley School before graduating as valedictorian from St. Patrick’s High School in 1945 and then Washington State (College) graduating in 1949 with a Sociology degree and Journalism certificate.
As the first woman hired to cover “hard news” for the Union-Bulletin, she loved walking the beat of the courthouse, city hall and police department. Returning to WSU for an Education degree in 1951, she student taught at Pullman High School and taught one year at Columbia High School (now Richland High School) before marrying Gene Gerkey and moving to a family wheat farm on the Touchet River near Prescott where together they raised a family and lived for 65 years. Nadine resumed her teaching career at Waitsburg High School (1959-1964), teaching English and Journalism, spent summers in Pullman earning a Master’s degree in English Literature, and then returned to the Walla Walla Union Bulletin for a 30 year career as a reporter for the Touchet Valley Region which included Pomeroy, Starbuck, Dayton, Waitsburg, and Prescott where she covered all civic news as well as personal profiles. Mrs. Gerkey also served from 1967-1977 as the first journalism instructor for the new Walla Walla Community College, first at the old WA-Hi location and then moving to the new campus on Isaacs Street (Tausick Way).
Upon retirement from the Union-Bulletin, Nadine embarked on a 10 year project to report, write, and publish a local quarterly paper she dubbed the “Prescott Eagle” with school district, city hall, and local business news along with personal/family profiles and interviews and photos of each graduating Prescott High School senior. Husband Gene helped with subscriptions and home delivery. Community contributions included service on the Dayton Depot board, Frenchtown Foundation, committee to build the Veteran’s Memorial Wall at WSU and a 10 year historic preservation advocacy to save from demolition the old St Patrick’s High School (culminating in a ruling at the Washington State Supreme Court). Community affiliations include Delta Gamma Sorority (WSU charter class), Junior Club of Walla Walla, and member of Assumption Catholic Church. Travel abroad included a St. Lawrence River trip to Quebec City, and 3 Rivers (Trois-Rivieres), from where her Bergevin ancestors originated. Other memorable travels included the 1977 silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in London, Ireland (to visit her great grandmother Mary O’Shay’s 1852 birthplace in Inch, County Kerry), Italy (saw the Pope in Rome), Egypt and Israel. U.S. trips included Washington D.C., Charleston, New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. Nadine and Gene set a goal to visit as many Presidential historical sites as possible, touring the Libraries of JFK (Boston), Reagan (Simi Valley, CA), Nixon (Yorba Linda, CA) Truman (Independence, Missouri) and Carter (Atlanta). They saw Jimmy Carter preach to children at his Baptist Church in Plains. They also visited the Illinois Statehouse where Lincoln served as representative, George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate, and Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.
Nadine and Gene attended the 2000 Republican National Convention and saw George W. Bush win the nomination in Philadelphia. Through it all, Nadine loved the rural serenity of home the most-the farm and valley, the horses and cows, working in the garden, and baking awesome pies. She was the best Mom ever.
She is survived by sons, Steve and Edward; daughter-in-law, Becky Torres Gerkey; sisters, Mary Frances Munns Towner (Red), Eulah Munns Davis; and brother-in-law, Mike Ferrante. Nadine is preceded in death by her parents, J. Francis and Ninetta Bergevin Munns; husband, Gene E Gerkey; sister, Nydia Jane Munns Oliver; brother, J. Frank Munns; and brothers-in-law, Harold Oliver and Carroll Davis; sisters-in-law, June Gerkey Meyers, Carol Gerkey Ferrante; father-in-law, Sam Gerkey; mother-in-law, Frances Fehrenbacher Gerkey; and step mother-in-law, Lola Rose Gerkey.
Special thanks for the love and support of in-home caregivers Vanessa, Kimi, Val and many others along with the caring staff of the Walla Walla Veterans Home.
Viewing and visitation will be held at Herring Groseclose Funeral Home on Thursday, July 30 from 11:00 AM- 5:00 PM. Funeral service will be held at Mountain View Cemetery on Friday, July 31, 10:00 AM.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation through Herring Groseclose Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder Walla Walla, WA 99362.