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Cheyenne Wells Man Leaves a Gift to His Parish

Cheyenne Wells Man Leaves a Gift to His Parish

If there was a textbook on the virtue of stewardship, Isidore Gerstner's life could be one of the lessons. Gerstner, a World War II veteran who passed away in March at the age of 90, named Sacred Heart Church in Cheyenne Wells as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The value of the policy at the time of his death was nearly $89,000.

However, according to those who knew him, Gerstner's gift to the parish was just the final chapter of a life spent serving the church and the community. Gerstner was born Feb. 27, 1920, on a farm near Ness City, Kan., according to an obituary published by the Hutchinson (Kan.) News. During World War II, he served in the Air Corps, said Sacred Heart parishioner Francis Thielen."He liked to talk about his wartime experiences," Thielen said.

Gerstner never married, and in the mid-1950s he moved to Cheyenne Wells, where he operated a movie theater that charged 50 cents for admission. Thielen recalled that on Sundays, Gerstner would show free movies for the Sisters of St. Joseph, who at that time ran St. Joseph of the Plains Hospital in Cheyenne Wells. The facility later became Keefe Memorial Hospital.

In addition to donating his treasure, Gerstner also contributed his time and talent to Sacred Heart, serving as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and pitching in when work needed to be done at the church, Thielen said.

Sacred Heart parishioner Vic Weed said that Gerstner had a lively and adventurous personality. Known as "Izzy" to his friends, Gerstner took up aviation but did not get a pilot's license, figuring his experience with World War II bombers would be enough, Weed recalled.

One time, while practicing taxiing in his Cessna, Gerstner gained too much speed and became airborne. Not knowing how to land the plane, he crashed in a neighbor's field but escaped unharmed, Weed said.

Gerstner moved back across the state line to Kansas several years ago to be closer to relatives, first living in an apartment in Goodland and then moving to a nursing home in Leoti, Thielen said. According to his obituary, he is survived by a brother, Harry; sisters-in-law Murial, Alice, Joan and Rosalie; a brother-in-law Ed; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

"I know that his legacy surprised many people," said Sacred Heart pastor Father Kirk Slattery. "These funds will allow us to continue our constant work of proclaiming and living the Gospel here at Sacred Heart, and that is the true gift that Mr. Gerstner has given us."

"Mr. Gerstner's gift is one of inspiration and forethought. Gifts such as the one Mr. Gerstner left make such a huge impact on the life of a parish. What is so great about this kind of gift is that it is something everybody can do. We will all be forever grateful for his generosity," added Niki Cicak, diocesan officer of planned giving.

Original story appeared in The Colorado Catholic Herald July 2, 2010 — Authored by Veronica Ambuul, Herald Staff Writer


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