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Mary Gerber

PRINCETON — Mary Emily (Bakalar) Gerber, 88, of Princeton passed away Friday, April 13, 2018, at OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa. The hope and peace her family has is knowing she is safely home with her Lord and Savior.

Mary was born Oct. 28, 1929, in Czechoslovakia, the daughter of John and Anna Bakalar. At the age of 3 her family left Czechoslovakia on a ship headed to America. One of her first memories was turning 4 on the boat and having a little party attended by even the Captain. She always appreciated all that this great land stood for and appreciated the freedoms that they enjoyed by coming to America.

She graduated in 1947 from Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport, Conn. At the age of 18, she accepted the Lord as her personal Savior. This life-changing decision led her from Bridgeport, Conn., to Chicago to attend the Moody Bible Institute. She earned her Christian education degree from Moody in 1954. While at Moody, she was the first girls’ counselor for HI-C Clubs in the Chicago area. It was a position she held during her years at Moody. After graduation, she worked as a counselor at Word of Life Camp. She then was employed at Northern Trust Company in Chicago until she met and married the Rev. Lauren W. Gerber on April 19, 1958.

Her husband and she were appointed by the Conservative Baptist Home Missions Society as church planters. They started churches in Iowa and Nebraska, before accepting a pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Bradford in January 1967. They served the Lord there together for almost 25 years.

Mary was a homemaker, making delicious home-cooked meals for her family. They shared many hours talking around the table and just enjoying each other’s company. She loved to read, and often finished books faster than you could get them to her. She always had a listening ear, and was often on the phone most of the evening talking and listening to her children tell about their days, their troubles, or their triumphs.

She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother (nanny), sister and aunt. She loved her family with a deep love. Through her whole life she wanted to serve her Lord and was constantly reminded of His goodness and faithfulness. Her desire was for all of her children and grandchildren to come to know the Lord as their personal Savior. She knew with her whole heart that then this farewell was only a “so long” and not a good-bye.

Mary will truly be missed by all those that knew and loved her.

Surviving are her children, Rose (John) Wilson of Lacey, Wash., Deborah Pease of Princeton, Cheryl Gerber of Vernon Hills, Marilyn (Rob) Jensen of Princeton, Daniel Gerber of Princeton and Carol (Tom) Smith of Princeton; her grandchildren, June (Mike) Brown, Scott Eckstein, Dale (Kristine) Eckstein, Rachel Mary Jensen and Abigail Lauren Jensen; several great-grandchildren; and her dear brothers, John Bakalar and Dr. Paul (Nancy) Bakalar.

She was preceded in death by her husband, the Rev. Lauren Gerber; her brother, Andrew; her son-in-law, Tony Pease; and her parents.

The family would like to thank Pastor John Erickson and Pastor Curtis Odell for their visits, prayers and comfort. They would also like to thank Karen Hullinger for her faithful care of both Pastor and Mary for 10 years.

A funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the Grant-Johnson Funeral Home in Princeton with Pastor John Erickson and Pastor Curtis Odell officiating. Burial will be in Elm Lawn Memorial Park in Princeton.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, at the funeral home.

Memorials may be directed to the family for later distribution.

Online condolences may be left at

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