Gerry Lehto

Obituary of Gerry Lehto

Gerald (Gerry or Jerry) William Lehto, aged 88, passed away peacefully on September 11, 2023 surrounded by loved ones, at Hearthstone Memory Care at Fairhaven Senior Services, Whitewater, WI.  He was born on December 13, 1934, in Ironwood, Michigan, to Ebba and Archibald Lehto.  Gerry lived in Ironwood, Michigan until his parents divorced and he moved with his mom to Milwaukee, WI and she was remarried to Leo Sweeney in 1945.  He developed a close relationship with his step dad.  Gerry graduated from Bayview High School, Milwaukee in 1953 where his classmates commented on his strong math ability.  He went on to study Accounting and graduated from Spencerian College in 1954.  He met the first love of his life and was engaged to her, before going to serve in the Army in 1955 and he married Alice Marguerite Hoffman on Oct. 15, 1955, in Milwaukee, WI while he was on leave.  He finished his tour of duty in early 1957 and they started their married life in Duluth, MN but soon moved to Racine, WI where he went to work as an Accountant for Bell City Malleable Iron in 1960 which became Racine Steel Castings.  He was recognized for 31 years of dedicated service. He and Alice raised 4 children and he helped instill a great work ethic, a loving family home and the love of music and the playing of musical instruments. He attended so many concerts and solo and ensemble contests as his children progressed from beginners to accomplished musicians.  He played the harmonica but his children and grandchildren went on to play a variety of instruments including:  violin, piano, flute, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and handbells.  Jerry was also a lover of nature and considered himself to be a “tree hugger”.  He and his family enjoyed several summers at a cabin on Half Moon Lake, Tomahawk, WI; where they enjoyed fishing, swimming, hiking to a nearby town for ice cream, reading, completing puzzles and playing cards.  In their home in Caledonia, he shared his love of gardening, swimming in the backyard pool, barbecuing, and baking bread.  He had a large tool bench and an assortment of hand tools and built things, like a beautiful dining room table.  As his children grew to adulthood, he was very proud of each of their accomplishments.  Unfortunately, Alice, the first love of his life, died of cancer in 1991 leaving him heartbroken.  He soon met the second love of his life, and he and Patricia Shears were married on June 11, 1995 in Wauwatosa, WI. Together they started a spiritual journey that took them to reside in Tahlequah, OK where they were active in the Light of Christ Church. They also enjoyed traveling to far away and exciting places. Upon returning to WI they were ordained at St. Ann’s Interdenominational Church, West Allis, WI in 1998.  Soon they moved to Whitewater, WI to be closer to Trish’s son Steve and his family. In 2004 they moved into an Apartment at Fairhaven Senior Services, Whitewater where they lived until they moved into Assisted Living shortly before Trish passed away in 2016.  Jerry was heartbroken again and he never stopped looking for a third wife.  During his stay in Assisted Living and then at Hearthstone Memory Care, he was known for his upbeat positive attitude.  If anyone ever asked him, “How are you doing?”, he always responded, “Wonderful!”  He was such an inspiration to the residents, staff and visitors.  Gerry exercised diligently and watched his weight and loved any and all music activities.  In addition he loved his Dove bars, Chocolate and Honey Nut Chex, and of course his Culvers lunches and his favorites were the single bacon cheeseburger on a gluten free bun with a caramel shake.  He delighted in special occasions spent with his family in these last years and followed all of the Wisconsin teams including the Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers and especially Jerry was a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan.  There were many instances of hardship in his life; his dad abandoning him, his two loves dying, working as an accountant for a struggling company, battling dementia/Alzheimers but he always continued, thrived. In the end, it really was "a wonderful life".  


He is survived by his loving children Karen (Steven Armstrong), Janet (Joseph Cunningham), Ronald Lehto, and Gail (Thomas Zugger); his stepchildren Steven (Debra) Shears, Chris (Kelly) Shears, and Tammy Stokes; his grandchildren Diane (Kurt Rasmussen), Devon Armstrong, Lauren (Austin Cary), Michael Cunningham, Jordan and Jacob Lehto, Nathan Zugger; his step grandchildren Cassie (Augusto Cardenas), David (Keishah) Shears, Shandra Shears and Faith Stokes; his great grandchildren Isabelle and Oliver Rasmussen and Chloe Cardenas; as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, Leo and Ebba Sweeney, his first wife Alice M. Lehto, mother-in-law Aurelia Hoffman, in-laws Vernon and Ruth Cochenet, his second wife Patricia Lehto, step children Michael Shears and Timothy Shears, nephew Joseph Cochenet, as well as many aunts, uncles, and cousins.   

Family, friends, and others are invited to a Celebration of Life at the Olm Fellowship Hall at Fairhaven Senior Services, 426 Starin Rd, Whitewater, at a time to be determined, to reminisce and honor the life of Jerry.  The family wants to thank the wonderful care given by the staff at Hearthstone and Rainbow Hospice. In lieu of flowers one could make a donation to The Fairhaven Foundation, Rainbow Hospice Care, or the American Red Cross of Wisconsin.  

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Nitardy Funeral Home - Whitewater
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