Gerald R. Satrum, 94, of Madison, Wisconsin passed away peacefully at home December 30, 2020.
Gerald was born October 19, 1926 in Chicago, IL to Waldemar and Waulina Satrum (nee Kinney). Gerald grew up in Hixton, WI. He was from a large, close family 7 sisters and 4 brothers. He said he spent most of his childhood in the woods, learning to hunt, and fish, and trap for food. He enjoyed playing outdoors with his friends and siblings and he would be the first to admit to getting up to mischief here and there.
In March of 1945 he joined the U.S. Army and proudly served tours in both in the U.S. and western Europe, eventually teaching auto mechanics stateside. He was honorably discharged in 1951; though had hoped to re-enlist and travel and serve in Australia, his family needed him at home.
In 1966 Gerald married Betty Nelson (nee Foote) and helped her raise three daughters: Sandra (Nelson) Keast, Judith (Nelson) Bartle, and Patricia (Nelson) Splett. Gerald and Betty were married 52 years and he often said these were the happiest years of his life. He and Betty worked hard to build a life together and enjoyed a long and happy retirement during which they pursued their many shared interests including travel, horse racing, and gardening.
Gerald loved his work in construction and especially enjoyed driving around Madison and pointing out all of the buildings that he had worked on, noting how they poured concrete to lay the foundation and build the walls, who the crane operators were, how cold it was that day, who was the foreman; he remembered every detail. His work was his passion and he said he loved going to work every single morning. Gerald was also a proud Laborers' International Union of North America member of the Laborer’s Local 464 for 66 years. He believed strongly in the power and the good that unions provided everyday people and was increasingly dismayed by the erosion of unions and living wages, overtime, benefits, and health insurance along with them.
Gerald was a “Friend of Bill W.,” active for many years in many Madison Alcoholics Anonymous groups, and clubs. He was a kind listener and firm sponsor to many on their journies with sobriety. He understood that the path was not always straight and that the journey was often a bumpy one.
If you knew Gerald, chances are he fixed something for you. He loved to build, fix, rebuild, and tinker with just about anything. Whether it was cars, trucks, toasters, pumps, roofs, bicycles, boats, if it was broken, he could usually fix it—and at the very least he wanted to try before you had to shell out a bunch of money for hired help. He would often spend his vacations working on projects or to-do lists at his brother Ted’s house, the family farm, or his parents’ home in Florida. He had two sayings: “There is a tool for every job” and “A job that doesn’t make you cuss isn’t worth doing”. If he tinkered with something for you, chances are he bought a few new tools and you heard a few new colorful swear words during the process.
Gerald was preceded in death by his daughter Judy Bartle in 1997, his granddaughter Julie Overby in 2015, and his beloved wife Betty in 2018. He will be greatly missed his daughters Patricia Splett and Sandra Keast; grandchildren, Jennifer (Bartle) Koch, Mark Nelson, Todd Keast; Kaitlin (Splett) Newhouse; and three great grandchildren, Aaron Koch, Emma Overby, and Evan Overby.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerald’s last year was spent it almost total isolation and seclusion. He was frustrated over the lack of response to and terrible mishandling of the virus, growing more and more disgusted as the death toll surged. He placed the blame squarely on Donald Trump (“The man in charge” or “King Trump”) and noted a festering fear about the fate of America that he had not felt since the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the months dragged on, Gerald lost all hope of going anywhere or leaving the house. He was increasingly lonely, frustrated, and worried about the health and safety of everyone, especially those he loved. If you called or visited during the past year please know your visit was cherished. In fact, your visits and Joe Biden’s election were the high spots of Gerald’s last year. He openly wept during President Biden’s acceptance speech. “Finally,” he said. “Finally, we are going to get back on the right path.”