Obit: Jay W. Gerrells

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Jay W. Gerrells

Jay W. Gerrells, 82, longtime Devils Lake resident and businessman, passed away on Thursday, February 7, 2013 at the Heartland Care Center, Devils Lake.   

Funeral services for Jay will be held on Wednesday, February 13 at 11 a.m. at St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Devils Lake with Rev. Jeff Nicla officiating. Burial will be in the Devils Lake Cemetery with Military Honors accorded by the Neathery-Simensen Post #756, Devils Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars and the North Dakota Military Funeral Honors Team. Friends may call at the Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake on Tuesday from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. and on Wednesday at the church from 10 a.m. until time of service.  Music will be provided by Donovan Foughty, vocalist and Lynda Pearson, organist.

Jay William Gerrells was born on February 14, 1930 in Fargo, ND to C.E. “Hoopty” and Irene (Johnson) Gerrells, the oldest of three children, including sister Barbara and brother Bill. Jay grew up in Fargo and then Bismarck before the family moved to Devils Lake in the summer of 1946, right before his senior year in High School. After graduating from Devils Lake High School in 1947, Jay helped out at the local Firestone Store where his father was the manager and part–owner. He attended Lake Region Junior College where he played Basketball, and then later attended the University of North Dakota.  It was during this time that Jay met Mavis June Garske. They fell in love and were married on October 20th, 1950.

During the Korean Conflict, Jay’s National Guard Unit was called to active duty and he was stationed at Camp Rucker, Ala.  Here Jay and Mavis started their family with the birth of their first child, a daughter Judy.  A son Steven was also born in Alabama but passed away after being with them for only two days.

After his time in the Army, Jay and Mavis moved back to Devils Lake and made a life for themselves. They had two more children, a son Scott and a daughter Lorrie.  Jay went to work for Gerrells and Company in 1952, working alongside his father and mother, selling tires, appliances, boats and sporting goods, eventually becoming a partner in the business. When his father retired in the mid-60’s Jay became the sole owner of the business and transitioned the business into exclusively sporting goods. 

He also started three other sporting goods stores in North Dakota, including Gerrells Sports Center in Grand Forks and GP Sporting Goods in Bismarck and Dickinson.  He also was a partner in Training Room, Inc., a tape and first aid business out of Fargo. Jay and Mavis retired in 1980 and split their time between Mesa, Ariz. and Devils Lake until ill health forced them to sell their home in Arizona last year.  Mavis passed away December 5, 2012.

Jay was an extremely hard worker and during his business years was very active in the Devils Lake community.  A member of the Jaycees and Chamber of Commerce, he also served as a past Commander of the American Legion, president of the United Fund Board, co-chairman of the Red Cross and member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church. Jay loved sports, served as president of the Devils Lake Quarter Back Club and liked to golf.  Jay was a good father, a cat lover and was very much loved by his children and grandchildren.

He is survived by three children, Judy Gerrells of Minneapolis, MN, Scott Gerrells (Kristie) of Devils Lake and Lorrie Pescion of Fargo, N.D.; brother, Bill Gerrells (Judy) of Vergus, Minn.; sister, Barbara Butts (Duane) of Minot, N.D.; four grandchildren, Preston Stewart of Southam, N.D., Robyn Gerrells of Fargo, N.D., Cody Gerrells of Minneapolis,  and Stevie Gerrells of Grand Forks; and great granddaughter, Bella Pladson also of Grand Forks.

Jay was preceded in death by his parents; Mavis his wife of 62 years and an infant son, Steven.

Friends may sign the online register book and share memories at

Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake, is in charge of arrangements.