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08/11/2022 12:00 PM

Gerald D. Degenhardt

Gerald D. Degenhardt, 85, died at home in Madison on Aug. 2. He was born Jan. 22, 1937 in Manhattan, the son of Frank Degenhardt and Barbara Meyer Degenhardt. After serving in the Army, Gerald graduated from Fordham University, and later secured a master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State College (as it was known at the time).

“Gerry,” as he was known for most of his life, moved from the city to the suburbs of Connecticut following his older brother who was then working for Chesbrough-Ponds. It was in Madison, at Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) where he spent over three decades of his life, in a role for which he was born. At DHHS, he taught all courses in high school English, creative writing and Shakespeare being his favorites. There he met and married the late Stephanie Drucker with whom he raised two daughters. Mr. D. was a teacher who believed in his craft and the students in his charge, allowing many of them to find voices they may not have otherwise. On command, Gerald could recite any scene from any of Shakespeare’s works and was always delighted to share his enthusiasm for the bard. He was a lover of words, written and spoken, was a consummate performer, and one who enjoyed a good prank and good-natured ribbing. One needs only to dive into the memories at DHHS to know.

A biblio- and audiophile, following his retirement Gerry joined several groups to keep active, inclusive of a short story group of fellow former DHHS colleagues, a poetry group, a jazz group, as well as serving on the board of the E.C. Scranton Memorial Library Friends of which he was an ardent supporter. He also kept close his interests in Native American peoples, wildlife and domestic animal causes, as well as local public radio. As a true New Yorker, too, he kept up with the Giants, Yankees, and the Rangers.

Later in life (almost a septuagenarian!), Gerry met and married the late Wendy T. Gifford, with whom he shared a beautiful love affair; the happiest years of his life. The two could be found discussing literature, doing the NYT crosswords, traveling, dining out weekly with their crew of friends, “the Usuals,” or simply sitting on the deck of the of the house they tended to with so much care while bearing witness to the wildlife around them (even if that did include chasing down errant squirrels from his birdfeeders).

He is survived by so many friends, for whom he cared deeply — newer friends and those with whom he had long-standing relationships — as well as the many students whose lives he touched as a high school English teacher. He is also survived by his daughters, Jennifer Degenhardt and Krista Hendrickson (Michael); his “bonus” children, Linda Gifford (Larry Jerome), Richard Gifford (Rebecca Alessi), Mimi McFall (Dodge), Jennifer Gifford (Jack Bolger), Tucker Gifford (Alix); and many bonus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Angela Degenhardt and his nieces, Celia Bartholomew (John) and Sarah Jessup (Robert Allen). He was predeceased by his brother, Richard Degenhardt and nieces, Evelyn and Elizabeth.

Per his wishes, services will be private. Donations can be made in his name to a charity of one’s choice that support any of the causes that Gerald held dear, such as Valley Shore Animal Welfare League.