Gerald L Becker – Jerry – was born on October 20, 1940 in a Coronado, CA naval hospital while his father was serving as a medical officer. He loved to tell people that he was a Pearl Harbor survivor. Because his father was stationed in Hawaii, his family was living in a house near the naval base the day of the Japanese attack. Planes swooped down as his father took a morning walk along the beach. The American military issued his mother a pistol to defend herself and baby Jerry in case the Japanese invaded.
After the war his family settled in the Chicago area. Jerry excelled in school, graduating at the top his class of 600 at Elmhurst High School. He also became a committed fan of Chicago’s teams—da Bears, the Bulls (he traveled to Atlanta to watch Michael Jordan’s last game) and most importantly, the Cubs. This love of sports inspired him to coach his son’s soccer team while living in Alabama, when soccer was just being introduced to southern kids.
Encouraged to study science as part of America’s push to dominate the space race, after high school, Jerry attended MIT. In addition to his studies, Jerry was concert master of the MIT Glee Club, arranging concerts with women’s colleges in the Boston area. Jerry received a silver platter at graduation to honor his work in support of music at MIT.
After his graduation, one of Jerry’s first purchases was a piano. He was often found at that instrument, accompanying singalongs with family and friends. Jerry loved everything from Bach to Bluegrass, especially the sound of the banjo, an instrument he also played for entertainment.
Jerry continued his education in medical school at the University of Chicago. However, he never practiced medicine, deciding instead laboratory science was his true calling. In addition to designing his own research projects, he trained students at university laboratories in Boston, Baltimore, Birmingham, Chicago and Omaha.
After spending his life applying for research dollars, Jerry ended his career at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC, distributing grant money to a new generation of young investigators.
Upon his retirement, he returned to Omaha to be close to four of his five grandchildren. He is survived by his wife Betsy, his sons Jonathan (Deborah) and William (Julie Parr) and five grandchildren (Grace, Gabriel, Gloria and Grant Becker and Samantha Parr). They will remember him for his puns, his fine singing, his gentle ways, his love of newspapers and tv sports, and his skill at Trivial Pursuit and the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Although Jerry died of Alzheimer’s disease, he never forgot how to sing.
Private Services were held.