Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sergeant John Gerber
U. S. Marine Corps

Sgt. Gerber's legacy lives on
Born on May 31, 1951 in Ordot, Guam, as the eldest son of Martin & Dolores Gerber, John Vincent Pangelinan Gerber made his presence felt as radio personality, an amateur historian and a Marine veteran who lived the Corps motto: ‘Always faithful’.

John attended Barrigada Junior High and Father Duenas Memorial School, and graduated from George Washington High in 1975. Marine Gerber fought in the Vietnam War from 1970-1971. Upon his return to Guam, John made a name as a young disc jockey named "JG," host of the rocking evenings of “Wireless Rock Show” on KUAM, then the only local radio station. John had an ear for the hits, and also established a record store called the "Wireless Rock Music Box" in Agana.

John also pioneered the "Spam" tours that took off-island visitors on boat charters that showcased Guam’s scenic southern coastal shores. In 1986, he threw his hat into the political arena with an unsuccessful bid for Senator. His attention and passion turned shorthly thereafter back to his Marine roots, and he embarked on a personal mission to earn recognition for the Corps, as well as honor their role in the liberation of Guam.

Operation Desert Storm triggered John Gerber, now a civilian, to show his support for the troops. He did so by offering to host any individual or group asociated with the 3rd Marine Division, stopping on Guam for a visit and was en route to the Middle East for combat deployment at his home. All told, he entertained and honored an estimated 16,00O invitees at his place in "Metro Ordot", his faous barbewhere veterans were treated to his famous barbeque spreads.

In 2004, he led the crusade to rename Marine Drive to Marine Corps Drive. A bill to rename the drive had been introduced, but it was stalled at the legislature. In response, John went out on Route 1 and pulled a carabao cart designed to display his cause. He walked over twenty-seven miles, all the way from Anderson Air Force Base to the Naval Base.

John also possessed an extensive collection of artifacts from the war. These included a set of restored World War II vehicles that he would line up each year on July 21st as part of the Liberation Day parade on Marine Crops Drive. In 2008, he used his collection as the foundation of his Pacific War Museum, which he founded on 2008 in Maina. This non-profit museum facility was John Gerber’s dream and commemorates the liberation of Guam and those who fought to reclaim it from the forces of Japan.

Some men fill their lives with time. Gerber filled his time with life. He was a leader in local radio programming, bringing a brash confidence and personality that still influences Guam’s radio scene. Over the past 10 years, Gerber helped welcome thousands of Marines and other service members to Guam, organizing barbeque feasts behind his home in Ordot, and later at his museum.

Guam is not the same without him here," said Jesse Dydasco at the Adelup museum four days after Gerber was laid to rest with military honors at the Guam Veterans Cemetery on May 15. Dydasco, 60, helped Gerber build the small museum, putting in countless volunteer hours building and landscaping, and preparing for the many welcome meriendas put on for visiting military members since the facility opened on July 21, 2008.

The former Marine sergeant is also a regular performer, singing and accompanying himself on ukulele while unflinchingly leading a party of 200 visitors in the Marine Corps Hymn. Gerber’s widow, Mela Gerber, said the family wants to continue John Gerber’s work and see the museum live on.

"We’re going to continue to keep it open," she said. "We can’t fill John’s shoes, but we will try to keep his dream alive. We will keep his dream alive."

More than 1,000 people attended Gerber’s funeral viewing and Mass in his home village of Ordot, just 10 minutes outside Guam’s capital, Hagatna. Inside San Juan Bautista Church, a choir composed of friends, family and high school classmates sang “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” as uniformed Marines took turns standing watch at the head and foot of Gerber’s casket, which was airbrushed with colorful, patriotic images.

In a lot across the street from the church, canopies covered rows of chairs and tables of food and drinks, and a large-screen TV displayed recorded video moments from the lives of Gerber and his family. Family, friends and acquaintances streamed through the area all morning long, many signing their names in guest books.

In his eulogy, Col. Robert Loynd, Marine Forces Pacific (Fwd) Guam & CNMI director, said, "Over the last two decades, nobody has done more for the Marine Corps and Guam than John Gerber."
At the end, a phalanx of Marines in dress blues carried Gerber in his casket outside to a World War II-vintage "deuce-and-a-half" cargo truck that is normally on display at the museum. After Gerber family friend Ray Camacho secured the casket into place, nearly 100 motorcycle riders, and easily as many other vehicles, including two World War II-era Jeeps, escorted the olive drab hearse to the Guam Veterans Cemetery.

There, Gerber was laid to rest in a crypt near a war-era gun turret that once had a home in Gerber’s back yard. It was his idea to move the Navy ship turret to the cemetery several years ago, a way to give thanks to veterans and their families.

John Gerber is survived by his wife, Mela Gomez Gerber, and four children; Ryan, Christiana, Storm and Rio.