AMES, IA — George “Jerry” Vertanen passed away peacefully on February 12th, at the age of 81, following a 10-month battle with cancer.
Jerry was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on April 9th, 1940, to immigrant parents and was the youngest of six children. His mother died 9 days after his birth. His older siblings cared for him until his father remarried quickly, as was the tradition at that time. He was fully embraced by his new extended family and was raised by a godly father and stepmother known to Jerry as Ma & Pa. His life centered around the Finnish Lutheran Church (Suomi Synod) and the Finnish community in the Upper Peninsula town of Gwinn, Michigan. He grew up knowing God’s love for him and never questioned it. He attended all 13 years of school in the same building, meeting his future wife, Nina Ketola, in kindergarten. With his dad being in his mid-60’s by the time he was 10, and hurt from many mining injuries, Jerry was known as the “Terror of Finn-town” until, in his words, “What I knew was right and what I did were out of sync, and I was convicted to never disappoint my father again.” He went on to say, “I was known in the womb by a loving Father and I was welcomed into the world by a loving ‘Pa’. One wrote the word and the other taught it to me.”
Jerry and Nina were born in the same hospital, only months apart, attended the same school, the same church, and participated in the same Luther League. They knew each other their entire lives. They were married soon after high school graduation on November 28th, 1958, the start of a wonderful marriage that would last 63 years. Christ was always at the center of his family’s life. Any time Jerry and Nina moved, and that was often – from Gwinn, MI to: Maquoketa, IA; Racine, WI; Port Washington, WI; Urbandale, IA; Des Moines, IA; Jackson, TN; Columbia, TN; and finally, to Ames, IA – the first thing they did was find a church, visit the pastor, and establish a spiritual home.
Professionally, Jerry was in the Lawn and Garden Manufacturing business, working for Clinton Engines, Case, Simplicity, AMF, Western International, Noma, and Murray. He earned numerous awards and held two U.S. Patents, working his way up from toolmaker, to draftsman, to department head, to plant manager, and became a leader in his profession, all without the benefit of a college degree. Upon retirement he served as an interim plant manager for Force 10 Marine, in Vancouver, Canada, before moving to Ames, Iowa in 2004. Since moving to Ames, Jerry and Nina’s life has revolved around their church, their family, and their love for God’s word. He and Nina have walked step by step in their faith journey throughout their life.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Nina (Ketola) Vertanen, sons: Mark Vertanen (Jenny) and Bruce Vertanen (Joelle), grandchildren: Jonathan (Jesse), Michelle, Kirsten (Andy), Kelsie, and Samuel, great- grandchildren: Lincoln, Stella, Jack, Isla, Moses, Reya, and River, nieces and nephews: Janet (Vercoe) Helsius, Sharon Jeane (Pezzotti) St. John, Eugene Pezzotti, Dennis Vertanen, David Vertanen, Christine (Vertanen) Jefferson, Dale Vertanen, Kathy Vertanen, Kathleen (Vertanen) Barr, Carol (Vertanen) German, Pamela Vertanen, Claudia (Vertanen) Smith, Michael Vertanen.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Lempi Marie (Kangas) Vertanen: his father, William Vertanen: his stepmother, Hilja (Ylonen) Vertanen; brothers: Arnie Vertanen (Infant), Wilho (Pauline) Vertanen, Arnie (Vera) Vertanen; sisters: Sylvia (Egnazio) Pezzotti and Bertha (Gordon) Vercoe; stepbrother: Waino (Connie) Ylonen; stepsister: Sylvia (Ylonen) Woodbridge; and nephews Daniel (Sandra) Vertanen, Darrel (Kathy) Vertanen, Gordon Vercoe, and niece Karen (Dale) Vertanen.
Funeral service will be held at 3:00 P.M., Sunday, February 20th, 2022, at Christ Community Church, 5501 George Washington Carver Ave., Ames, Iowa. Visitation will be held from 1:30 to 3:00 P.M. Sunday at the church. The funeral will be livestreamed and can be viewed on Jerry’s Tribute Wall on the Adams Funeral Home website. There will be a private interment at the Ames Municipal Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Christ Community Church and Ascension Lutheran Church.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Adams Funeral Home and online condolences may be left for Jerry’s family at www.adamssoderstrum.com.