John Ralph Gerard

Toulon – Lifelong Toulon resident John Ralph Gerard, 96, passed away February 24, 2010, at the Toulon Rehabilitation and Care Center.  Born on August 13, 1913, the ninth child of John Henry and Cora (Loudenberg) Gerard, he was “Ralph” to most people, but “John” to those with whom he served in World War II, and “Lightning” to those who go way back to his days on a local baseball team.
During his youth, Ralph worked at Bill Humphries’ Café in the days when a good breakfast cost 25 cents, a T-bone steak dinner 40 cents and a cup of coffee a nickel.  During those years he took hundreds of candid photographs of the locals mingling on Main Street and has donated many of the photos to the Stark County historical museum.
Ralph was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in June of 1942 where, instead of becoming a cook, as his older brother Floyd had advised, he was trained as an instrument specialist.  He served in England and France and had many stories of bombers returning after their runs and quickly getting holes patched and instruments repaired to be sent out again the next day.  After several field promotions, he was discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant in October of 1945.
Ralph returned to Toulon and worked for 2 years on a state road crew (until the “opposite” party won the statehouse) and then as a carpenter and at Wrigley Grain and Lumber for 29 years, retiring in 1980.  He was a Toulon fireman for many years and served a term on the City Council.  He was an active 60-plus year member of Toulon Legion Post 416.  He sang with a local group “The Grandmas and the Grandpas” who had a great time performing at local events and area nursing homes, and was a member of the Methodist Church choir for several years.
Ralph may be remembered by many people as a familiar figure at local craft shows selling his “Things in Walnut.”  His bowls, lamps, furniture and other items are in homes throughout the U.S. as well as in Africa and several European countries.  He was fascinated with all types of wood and enjoyed speaking to scouts and school groups.
Ralph loved the Toulon community and, in his later years, was often sought as a resource for Toulon history.  Who else remembers Baker and Younger, Walker Brothers Grocery, D.A. Johnson’s Clothing Store, Cover Drug Store and Sickles’ Grocery as well as two taxi services for people traveling on the trains passing through town every day.
Ralph was the last of his brothers and sisters and was preceded in death by several nieces and nephews.  He is survived by his wife Marguerite (Ault); daughter Linda Naughtin in Orlando, Florida and grandson Richard Naughtin (Pam) in Denton, Texas; son Steve of Kewanee and grandsons Doug and Shaun; one great grandchild, Nolan; and nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews, many in the Toulon area.
Funeral services were at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 27, 2010, at DeBolt-Kidd Funeral Home, Toulon, Illinois.  Rev. Paul Wier officiated.  Visitation was from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, February 26, 2010, at DeBolt-Kidd Funeral Home.  Burial was in Toulon Cemetery with military rites conducted by Toulon American Legion Post 416.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Toulon United Methodist Church.  Private condolences may be sent to the family via www.toulonfh.com.

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