Title: Geraldine “Jerry” Reardon dies at 81
The beloved former first lady of Anderson University died Tuesday morning. Geraldine "Jerry" Reardon, 81, died at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis after a sudden illness. Jerry was married to former AU president, Robert "Bob" Reardon and was the first lady from 1959 to 1982. She lived in Anderson for more than 50 years and touched thousands upon thousands of lives. "Her spirit just bubbled over to you," said Philip Bruzzese, Jerry's friend and Sunday School teacher at Park Place Church of God. "She was the type of person who not only wanted to make you feel at ease, but was always genuinely interested in your background and your life. She cared about her friends and always made you feel like you were very important to her."
The Reardons just celebrated their 60th anniversary Aug. 24. Each of their four children, who live throughout the United States, was able to attend both private and public celebrations.
"She was so glad her children were all home for it," said longtime friend Gloria Gaither. "It was wonderful. She always was so proud of them. It's so seldom they are all home at once."
The Reardons had met in 1939 at a youth convention in Michigan. After the convention, they both ended up attending Anderson College. They dated from 1939 to 1941, marrying in 1941 following a Park Place Sunday church service officiated by Bob's father. While her husband went on to become president at AU, Jerry attended classes and graduated with her middle daughter in 1967. She then became an English teacher for 16 years, teaching at both Madison Heights Junior High and at East Side Junior High.
"The word to describe her was grace," Gaither said. "She was gracious to look at and lovely in the gracious way she dealt with people. She was full of grace and exhibited grace in every way." Gaither, who is a former teacher herself, shared multiple interests with Jerry including traveling and the appreciation of great literature and children's literature.
"She always believed in people, which was so refreshing in a world of cynicism," Gaither said. "She believed in the greatness of everyone whether they were a child or someone who had failed time and time again. She always believed in redemption. She was a living example of redemption."
Jerry was with a group of friends Sunday when she fell ill. Her friends and family prayed and sang in a nearby room as emergency personnel assisted her.
"She said to me at the hospital that, 'It was so wonderful to have it happen to you around friends.' She was always making the best of things and trying to make people feel better. As she went to the hospital, she told everyone at the club, "I didn't even get my dessert.' That's just Jerry. She was always finding a good way to look at the worst things."
Jerry's love and sensitivity toward everyone made her a woman all could look up to.
"She was a very pristine lady, marvelous and almost the symbol of devoted wife and admired leader and hostess -- she was all those things in to one," said Dr. James L. Edwards, AU president. Edwards met Jerry Reardon when he was a student at AU in 1961. Over the years, as he graduated and became part of the faculty, Jerry and Bob and Edwards and his wife, Deanna, became close friends.
"I've always held her in such regard," Edwards said. "She was a very gracious person who was careful and proper and gentile. She became such a warm friend and was such an encouraging person. "She was close to a lot of people through a lot of generations," Edwards continued. "She's taken them under her wing. All of those people are thinking of her now and her family. She will be greatly missed."
----STACEY M. LANE GROSH is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.