GERTRUDE ALICE JACOBS (née BLATZHEIM) (1935-2021)
Gertie Jacobs loved a good story. In fact, she was able to entice listeners with her ability to provide vibrant commentary on just about any event. She could draw you into her world, which was always energetic and alive. Even mundane occurrences would jump to life through her storytelling with her verbal ability to draw vivid color where one might have seen only gray. The story of Gertie’s life is truly unique and filled with passion. It may seem unbelievable to some.
Gertie was many things. A mother, author, entrepreneur and mentor. She was a life coach before the term was invented. Gertie was a woman always on the move who lived life with the fearlessness that comes from having faced hardship early. She was resilience personified.
Gertie was born on September 6, 1935 in Minneapolis to LeRoy and Catherine Blatzheim (née O’Rourke). Her mother worked nights as a switchboard operator. Her father owned and operated a dry cleaning business. He was — as Gertie described him — a hard worker and an equally hard drinker. She became the peacekeeper at home where she grew up with three siblings: Jerry, Ginny (Mulvihill) and Bette (Voss).
She attended St. Anne’s Catholic School, gaining attention for her quick wit and way with words. Gertie served as class president and valedictorian. She had a love of drama and performed in many plays. After graduating high school in 1953, Gertie earned a nursing degree from the Swedish School of Nursing in Minneapolis. That began the first of many fulfilling careers in her life, although she always said her most rewarding and treasured role was that of a mother.
On July 2, 1955, Gertie married Bruce Jacobs, who she met in eighth grade. Together they raised 11 children: Mike, Mark, Ginny, Matt, Ann, Liz, Chris, Polly, Jerry, Catherine and John. Life for the family was rarely easy or predictable. Gertie never perceived herself as a victim of circumstance. She believed through the “process of struggling, one becomes more proficient, stronger and more capable.”
Gertie had a true gift for connecting with people and she never shied away from asking them about their lives. She was smart, kind, funny and real. She was a gifted pianist. She worked for more than 20 years as a nurse, then became a real estate agent and broker. Gertie also worked as a sales director, recruiter and piano instructor. She was a columnist for a local newspaper and authored several children's books. At the age of 79, she began blogging. Recently, Gertie published her autobiography under her pen name, Kate O’Rourke. She traveled across the country, lived in many states, visited Europe and caught sunsets on both coasts.
Her mother used to tell her, “A thought not written, is a thought lost.” As such, throughout her life, Gertie wrote, industriously chronicling her thoughts and deeds. She wrote that we are each born with a spirit, the size of which she likened to a vessel or cup. The purpose of our life — in her view — was to fill our cups with accomplishments, generous actions, kind efforts and good deeds. By these measures and all others, the cup of Gertie Jacobs runneth over.
Gertie felt her name was outdated, but she never became so herself. She was spirited and possessed boundless energy. She thrived on being productive. In recent years, she traveled as a public speaker who loved to share her experiences with those who might be facing similar hardships. Her passion was helping others rise above difficult situations. In each person, she saw a chance to have an impact. She offered food, housing — and many times — her last dollar. Gertie graciously cared for others, guiding them to a better place. She gave of herself, unabashedly and always.
She loved playing the piano, listening to a good jazz band, taking short jaunts to historical sites and attending the theater. If you struck her funny bone, her fits of high-pitched laughter could last an hour. Gertie also loved Swiss Miss pudding and was always happy to pull a cup from the fridge for her grandkids: Marc, Laura, Adam, Annika, Megan, Sean, Ryan, James, Brice, Zachary, Sara, Shannon, Stephanie, Erin, Jerry, Andrew and Elliot — as long as they let her add ample amounts of Reddi Wip.
Gertie fiercely valued her independence. Even in the final years of her life, she would sometimes skip town on an adventure without telling anyone. Like a wild mustang, she was not to be corralled. Her natural warmth brought her good company wherever she traveled. She seemed to feel equally at home among strangers, like the many people in crisis she picked up and offered housing or job assistance. We would sometimes find her chatting with someone like they had been friends for a lifetime, only to find they just met five minutes earlier. Gertie possessed a gift — an ability to make people feel comfortable, worthy and welcome.
But Gertie’s legacy — and what she was most proud of — is her “intelligent and gifted children” who do so “many wonderful, kind, thoughtful and generous deeds.”
Her life was not easy. But an easy life was not what Gertie wanted. Her life was real, challenging and unforgettable — just like her. Her advice to us all: rise above it, stay busy and focus on others. She will be dearly missed by so many who were lucky enough to be gifted with her presence.
Enjoy the day, the hours and for any reason,
Kindness, caring...seem to fill every season. - Gertie Jacobs
GERTIEISMS AND WORDS TO CHERISH
The life and times of mom
Robert Frost would recommend “taking the road less traveled.” Gertie would say, “Road, what road?“ In her next life, if she becomes a “planner,” Gertie’s last words may be, “watch this!”
Famous Gertieisms, beliefs and theories:
Having Gertie as a Mom taught us so many valuable and beautiful things, such as:
Gertie loved music and dancing. She could play the piano, impress a crowd, motivate and persuade people. She could make things happen, often at warp speed. Gertie had a child-like quality that could be so fun. She was witty, sarcastic, careless, acerbic and so funny. To say that she challenged those she loved most would be satirically unadulterated. It was an honor to be on the receiving end of her vinegar. We will also miss her positive voice and encouragement. In her honor, we will each set course for our next new adventure, always seeking to follow the sun, and rising above any challenges life sends our way. Gertie has given us all a rich volume of extraordinary and unique stories. For these memories, we are especially grateful.