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21 S. Austin Road
Janesville, WI 53548
Phone: (608) 752-2444
Fax: (608) 754-7780
About An Amazing Life|Help

Gertrude Leigh
Airis (Kerr)

May 22, 1917 – November 7, 2018

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"We are honored to provide this Book of Memories to the family."
— Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home & Cremation Services

Obituary for Gertrude Leigh Airis (Kerr)

Janesville has lost a lifelong friend to the community with the peaceful passing of Gertrude Leigh Airis on November 7, 2018. A much loved centenarian, Gert led a full and fruitful life. So much so, that one cannot help but give a nod, wink and smile and think, “Great job, Gertie - you’ve done good!” It is hard not to reflect on her life and celebrate her passage through time with the love and vigor with which we celebrate the wife, the mother, the friend, the grandmother, the great-grandmother and the worker she was to become. She was so much the loving wife, in fact, she decided to surprise her late husband Ed by leaving us to join him on his birthday.

Born in North Loup, NE on May 22, 1917, to Woodard and Tacy Kerr, Gert found herself moving from state to state with her parents and her other siblings as Woodard would venture out, seeking work where he could find it. With the lure of gold out west and the responsibilities of raising a family leaning on him, Woodard abandoned the family leaving Tacy and kids to fend for themselves. This fateful turn brought the family to Milton, WI, where a series of events culminated in Gert meeting what would be her one true love. A 1937 Milton High School graduate, Gert blossomed with all the charms and sociabilities that would see her both accepted by and honored in the school band and the coveted cheerleading squad. With money she saved cleaning homes during high school, she moved to Milwaukee where she earned a degree as a beautician.

Upon her return, and while attending a Milton College dance, she met the man of her dreams, Ed Airis. He was on a stage playing piano in a dance band. The moment she laid eyes on Ed, she knew there would be no turning back. Ed, however, had thoughts of entering the priesthood and had, in fact, given up for Lent such worldly indulgences as dancing. Yet, Gert was able to charm him onto the dance floor (or “force” him as Ed would tell you) in spite of his Lenten convictions, pretty much setting things in motion. Gert knew, right then and there, that she met “a keeper” and that her life - and a life with this man - were to follow an entirely different path than the priesthood. And indeed, it did.

Following their marriage on May 30, 1941, Ed fulfilled his service in the Navy and they moved to Chicago where he solidified his work with GM before settling in Janesville. Together, they sowed the seeds of their lifelong love affair - a union that would last for 64 years. Gert worked as a beautician in the early years of marriage, honing skills in how to set a curl as well as how to chat it up with whomever was around. If there were a story to be told, Gert had one - and all would enjoy the lively banter she created.

When she settled into a more traditional family role, a typical workday would find her love, Ed, returning home from work, enjoying the piano while sipping one of his signature martinis. All the while, Gert would be whistling along from the kitchen, fixing the nightly meal for the family. It seemed there wasn’t a day that a song wasn’t wafting between kitchen and dining room. A simple enough gesture, yet it showed how much they enjoyed and nurtured each other’s togetherness. And it wasn’t just confined to their home. You would often find Gert standing beside Ed while he played, singing along. If there was a piano to be found, when at friend’s home or at the Janesville Elk’s Club, Gert and Ed would find it. Together.

Gert was a long-standing member of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church and lived, until her death, at Cedar Crest. She was a 53-year life member of the Elks Lodge #254. For many years she was the head of her high school classes’ reunion committee, putting together festivities for all to enjoy. She served the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary along side Ed and continued with Mercy Hospital Castaways Thrift Shop for 12 years where she was known as the expert in “clean and orderly,” skills she refined years earlier with her well known and advertised (Gert’s) garage sales. Her partners in crime (Ed and mom, Tacy) would ensure there was something for everyone - be it her infamous homemade “Gert’s Mustard” or a smartly pressed shirt hanging from the garage rafters. She would often joke that the second-hand shops would be having an off-weekend when her garage sales were in full swing. She even bragged of a radio jingle that once played touting the extravaganza which brought in a busload of churchgoers to her curb for a look-see.

She is preceded in death by her husband, lifelong companion and accompanist, Ed. She is survived by sons, Bob Airis of Gulfport Fl, and Rich Airis of Watercolor, Fl, daughter, Barb (Bruce) Slatter of Janesville, WI; 7 grandchildren John Springer (deceased), Angie Slatter, Lindsey Slatter, Ashley Airis, Adam Airis, Michelle Vietanen, Holly Wyatt; and 12 great-grandchildren Aleyha, Destiny, Nala, Adrianna, Maverick, Sawyer, Zachary, Garrett, Mitchell, Sydney, Alaina, and Chrysanthe.

Even in her later years, Gert’s sparkle for life touched many folks, not the least of which were her friends at Cedar Crest and Agrace Hospice. In her inimitable fashion, Gert would want to thank them for their warm hearts and for providing a restful place to lay her tired head. And most importantly, Gert would want to say that she must have lived a blessed life to have her daughter, Barb, watching over her as diligently and lovingly as she did, right up to the end. A blessed life indeed.

How might one live a life of 101+ years? Many who knew Gert well would simply say, in a word - happily! And it is her happy, storied and spirited life – a life well lived – that the Airis family celebrates.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, November 24, 2018 at the Whitcomb – Lynch Funeral Home with Rev. Jerry Amstutz officiating. Visitation will begin at 1:00 PM with an Elk’s Ladies Service at 12:45 PM.

In lieu of flowers and other expressions of, “Job well done, Gertie!,” memorials may be made to Cedar Crest.

To send flowers to the family of Gertrude Leigh Airis (Kerr), please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.


When Saturday, November 24th, 2018 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc.
21 S. Austin Rd.
Janesville, WI 53548

Service Information

Saturday, November 24th, 2018 2:00pm
Rev. Jerry Amstutz
Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc.
21 S. Austin Rd.
Janesville, WI 53548

Interment Information

Oak Hill Cemetery
1725 N. Washington St.
Janesville, WI 53548

Reception Information

Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc.
21 S. Austin Rd.
Janesville, WI 53548