Gerald Wayne Gilchrist, “Jerry,” passed away peacefully from natural causes Saturday, March 21, 2020.
He was born Dec. 16, 1934, in Colfax and was the fourth child to bless the home of Dora and DeMoine Gilchrist Sr. From the very beginning, Jerry was full of life and laughter. He and his brother, Robert “Bob” had many adventures growing up on the family farm at Union Flat just outside Colfax. Jerry loved to tell stories of their shenanigans.
During his school years, Jerry played football and basketball for the Colfax Bulldogs and was involved in 4-H, FFA and showing steers at the Spokane Stock Show. He also became a concert pianist, which his mother wanted him to pursue in college. But his true love was farming and so he chose to go to Washington State University to study ag business. While there, he joined the Sigma Nu fraternity. His time at WSU came to an end when he knew he was going to be drafted into the military. Thus, he left school early and enlisted in the United States Army to serve his country.
He eventually was deployed to France and was stationed there after the war as part of the military police working side-by-side with the French police. When his service to the U.S. Army concluded, he came back to Colfax to work on the farm with his dad and brother Bob.
Within a year of returning to Whitman County, he met the love of his life, Penny Lewis. They became engaged and got married Sept. 13, 1958. Penny and Jerry were blessed with four children: Terry, Karen, David and Susan.
If Jerry wasn’t working in the fields, he was involved with his family’s many activities. He was a constant figure at most school sporting events, and he loved cheering on his children and their friends while they excelled at their respective crafts. During this time, Jerry and his brother Bob decided to expand and acquire land to start their own partnership. Eventually, Jerry’s brother, Bob, moved on from farming and Jerry embraced taking over the entire operation. He was so proud to be realizing his dream of running the farm.
Jerry also loved to entertain members of the community. He and Penny often hosted sledding/ice skating parties in winter and trail rides and campouts in the summer. He also worked with the Washington State Fish and Game department to stock fish in the Gilchrist Pond so that families had a local place to fish. Over the years, many local residents traveled to Gilchrist Pond on the opening day of fishing or for the annual fishing derby in June. Jerry loved hearing the children scream and laugh with joy as they learned to fish. He truly loved sharing the farm with others.
Later, he began the process of retiring and proudly turned the everyday duties over to his son, David. At this point, he chose to open the farm to paid hunting and guest lodging. For years, he and Penny entertained hunting parties, photographers and WSU parents and fans. He loved visiting and sharing stories of farming and ranching with all those who stayed with them.
Besides being active with family events, Jerry was deeply involved in the community. He was part of the Pine Grove Grange, holding many leadership roles within the organization, including a term as master. He was also part of the Whitman County Roads Committee and a member of the Colfax Elks Club. He was primarily involved with the Palouse Empire Rodeo Association as a member of the board of directors and helped the committee put on a fabulous rodeo every September. In addition, he was president of the Colfax Jr. Rodeo and spent many years holding goats and working the catchpen.
Jerry enjoyed golfing and traveling. Every summer between hay season and harvest, you could find Jerry at either Priest Lake or Stoneridge where he golfed with friends and enjoyed watching his children and grandchildren play. During the winter months, he enjoyed seeing the world. He and Penny loved going to Mexico and on Caribbean cruises with their friends. One of his favorite trips was when he took Penny to France and he showed her many of the sights from his time in the service.
During retirement, Jerry and Penny loved to go square dancing. He combined his love of the farm and dancing by hosting many bridge dances on the bridge that leads to the farm. These events were full of activities, including nature walks, camping and fun by a campfire. Jerry always loved a good weenie or marshmallow roast.
Jerry was a generous, loving man who unselfishly gave back to his community. He was preceded in death by his parents, DeMoine Sr. and Dora Gilchrist; his siblings, DeMoine Gilchrist Jr. and Robert (Bob) Gilchrist; and his two oldest children, Terry Gilchrist and Karen Lathrop. He is survived by his sister, Catherine McCaffery; wife Penny Gilchrist; children David (Sue) Gilchrist and Susan (Craig) Recob; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Because of the current statewide restrictions on large group gatherings, the family plans to do a celebration of life rather than a funeral. They will host it during the summer and will inform those who wish to come once plans are finalized. Viewing will be held at Bruning Funeral Home on Thursday and Friday, March 26 and 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Monday morning, March 30. Rather than flowers, donations can be made to the Colfax Jr. Rodeo in Jerry’s honor, care of Carrie Lyle.
Bruning Funeral Home of Colfax is caring for the family.