February 16, 1928 – January 30, 2021
Gisela Ausserehl Zerkel passed away peacefully early January 30, 2021 after a long, storied, and wonderful life. She was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on February 16, 1928 (the year being a closely guarded secret until she turned 90) to Heinrich and Emilie (Roeder) Ausserehl, the eldest of four siblings: Hansjuergen, Gerlinde, and Peter. Her sister, Gerlinde Semone, lives in California with her husband, John, whom she met traveling to America with Gisela.
Gisela lived in Germany until after World War II. She attended the Herder Schule, a prestigious high school for girls. Her experiences in the War shaped her strength and resilience, traits she instilled in others by her example and through stories she shared with generations of children.
At 18, she met Ronald Zerkel, an American Soldier stationed in Germany for the Reconstruction. A chance encounter began a long courtship that crossed oceans and culminated in marriage. Leaving behind a life of affluence in Frankfurt, Gisela moved with Ron to Waterloo, Oregon to build their life together.
The life Gisela and Ron shared in their 59 years together embodies the American Dream. Together, they built a home on a hill, raised a family, traveled the world, spoiled their grandchildren, and worked to make their community a better place. Gisela was hard working, often working a full-time job alongside a side gig to help her family. She used the resourcefulness learned during the War to support her family as Ron accomplished his dream of becoming a teacher. Gisela later attended OSU, graduating with a degree in Accounting in her fifties. She learned to sew and made clothes for herself, loved ones, and those in need- including dozens (if not hundreds) of cough pillows for patients in the Lebanon hospital. She was an accomplished knitter, crocheter, and loved to quilt. As a result, many of her children and grandchildren have clothing and quilts to remember her by.
Gisela was an excellent cook and baker, teaching herself to make pies worth fighting over (despite the “fact” that German women can’t make pie). She never used recipes to make German dishes that her family loved, nor measuring cups to make biscuits from scratch. A family joke that dinner was served when the smoke alarm went off never got in the way of seconds, and usually thirds, being demanded.
Gisela was a member of Our Saviours Lutheran church for more than 60 years, teaching Sunday School for a generation of kids who will always remember Oma and her German-accented Lord’s Prayer. She was known around town for the soup she made for the annual Christmas Bazaar as part of her church work with WELCA. She often visited classrooms to teach about German culture or living through the War. She was active in the Hospital Auxiliary, serving in many ways. For years, Gisela was an active (and loved) cook for Lebanon’s Soup Kitchen, and brought her grandchildren in to volunteer.
Gisela always made everyone feel special, raising 4 only children and five favorite grandkids. Her family grew to include six great-grandkids, step-grandkids, step-great-grandkids, and adopted grandchildren of all ages, especially Chayhnowa. Her children are Thomas Peter (Debbie), Edda Jean (Jeff), Kent James (Myrna), and Nathan Lee (Anna). Her grandchildren are Ryan, Justin, Wyatt, Emmy, and Alexander. She also is survived by her Greek son, Kostas Chatizksoupis. Gisela always said she was "Gott und der Welt's" Oma (God and the World’s Oma). Indeed, to anyone who knew her through her family, “Oma” was her given name. If you ask for everyone who called her Oma, there are far too many to list. Gisela leaves behind a loving family, a grateful community, and a legacy of strength and love few will ever match.
Donations in her honor can be made to Our Saviours Lutheran Church- WELCA to be used for Lutheran World Relief and quilting or to the Lebanon Schools Foundation and sent in care of Huston-Jost Funeral Home, 86 W. Grant St., Lebanon, OR 97355. To leave an online condolence for the family go to www.hustonjost.com