Jerry Samuel Weis, PhD., 86, passed away at Good Shepherd Hospice House on Saturday, August 6, 2022. He was surrounded by family, including beloved grandchildren, who were his heart and soul.
An avid storyteller, profound listener and example of a life well lived, his family would like this to be a love letter sharing a little about this man who made the world a better place.
Born on December 22, 1935 in Salina, KS to Lucille Sondergard Weis and Paul Samuel Weis, Jerry was adored by his family. Two years later he was joined by his brother, Larry Paul Weis, and that’s where their story begins.
“All boy” those two were, and their shared love of sports allowed them to spend a lot of time together. One of their favorite stories to tell was the summer they could only afford one baseball glove, which meant they couldn’t play on the same team. Between innings whoever had the glove would toss it to the other on their way back to the dugout.
Their childhood included best friends Gerald Culley, Bob Pinkall and Rich Wilbur. These friendships would span their entire lifetime, eventually including their wives. This group, that included Jerry, Larry and their wives, called themselves the “Crazy Buddies”. They continued to share their lives, even after moves all around the country. Their travels together created fabulous memories! That’s the kind of guy Jerry was. Once you knew him, you wanted him in your life forever.
Jerry was the first in his family to attend college, and his family burst with pride. He received his undergraduate degree at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, was a four year letterman in basketball, two year letterman in tennis, and served as Student Body President. In 1970, he was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumnus.
Life then took him to the University of Kansas in Lawrence and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, so he could pursue his Masters’ and Doctoral degrees. It was during that time his destiny inadvertently picked up his newspaper in the KU cafeteria, and there was no turning back. He was instantly smitten with this beautiful, spunky and determined farm girl from Missouri, Linda Faye Browning. Within a week, he knew he was going to marry this girl. And he told her so. Their whirlwind courtship lasted six months and he DID marry that girl at First Baptist Church in Brunswick, Missouri on January 29, 1961. No one could deny they were the loves of each other’s lives.
His career in higher education took them to the University of Minnesota at Duluth where he was an Assistant Professor, followed by a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Yale University. When Jerry told Linda he wanted to accept a job offer at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, she thought he was nuts! Who leaves Yale for Kansas? She tells the story of crying all the way from Connecticut to the Midwest.
The rest, as they say, is history. Manhattan quickly became their home, and this couple spent the next 50+ years serving the community in every capacity they could. Jerry did this in the most modest of ways. He didn’t want accolades. To him, this is just what you should do. Give back, pure and simple. And always be grateful.
Their union blessed them with three children and six grandchildren. His family is aching with grief right now over the loss of this great man. This is the price to be paid when someone loves the way Jerry did: unconditionally, fiercely, and without judgment. His family knew they were his everything. He did it all: coached, helped with homework, attended games and activities, nursed boo boos and broken hearts, enabled the bringing home of stray animals.
He had an innate ability to listen. When you talked with him, you knew you were heard. There was a quiet intelligence about him that allowed him to view all sides of a discussion, and navigate parties to mutual understandings. He wasn’t right – and you weren’t wrong.
A man way ahead of his time, he encouraged and supported his wife to further her education and spread her wings, including becoming actively involved in the community and eventually a business owner. Not many men in the 1970’s-80’s would have helped cook, clean and care for the children, all while balancing a challenging career. But Jerry did. And he did it well.
His creative side was nurtured when he sketched or painted for fun. He would laugh and tell you he wasn’t very good, but his renderings showed differently. He loved to build things in his workshop, and his family treasures the furniture he built. He could fix just about anything. He and Linda bought old houses and “flipped” them, long before most people had heard that term. Friends and neighbors learned that he was always willing to lend a helping hand if needed.
He was not only a champion of a diverse circle of people in his personal life; he channeled that same energy during the 34 years he spent at Kansas State University in the Division of Biology. Serving in many capacities, including Associate Professor, Associate Director and Interim Director, those who were taught by him and worked with him will passionately tell you he positively impacted more lives than anyone could ever count. He about drove “the gals in the office” crazy because they never knew where to find him. One thing, though. Jerry could tell you the names of everyone who worked at Ackert Hall … from the head honcho to the part-time maintenance guys. Everyone mattered, everyone was important.
Involved in many facets during his tenure at KSU, he led the formation of the Office of Undergraduate Affairs, served three terms as an elected representative of the Faculty Senate and twice chaired the Academic Affairs Committee. He served as State President, Kansas Academy of Science. In 1991 he was one of seven KSU faculty members selected for the General Education Task Force and was also a recipient of the William Stamey Teaching Award, Arts and Sciences.
Upon retiring from KSU in 2000, Jerry joined Linda in running her real estate business, Realty Executives Weis Real Estate. For the next 20 years, he worked tirelessly in the real estate industry. The integrity with which he lived was a part of his every transaction. Employees and clients were treated like family, and his word was his bond. He didn’t understand why all that blasted paperwork was needed; what happened to a verbal agreement and a handshake? But he begrudgingly learned how to do it all.
He worked hard and served many people: President and Board of Directors, Manhattan Arts Council; President, Manhattan Rotary Club; Chairman, District Rotary Polio Plus Campaign; Distinguished Service Award, Rotary International; Rotarian of the Year and Paul Harris Fellow, Manhattan Rotary Club; Rotary International Foundation “Citation for Meritorious Service” and “Service Above Self” award; Rotary International Foundation “Scholarships” subcommittee chair; Board of Directors and KSU Campaign Chair, United Way of Manhattan; President, Eugene Field PTA; President, Manhattan Assn of Realtors; President, Peace Lutheran Church Council; President, First Lutheran Church Council; Chairperson, FLC Lamb of God Board; 13 years on the Board of Trustees, Kansas Wesleyan University, Jerry served as Chair of Troop 74 Committee, Boy Scouts of America for many years. Through the years, he and his wife, Linda, hosted international students from Peru, Colombia, and Sweden.
A devout man of God, Jerry was a lifelong Lutheran and while in Manhattan, actively volunteered during his 13 years at Peace Lutheran Church and 43 years at First Lutheran Church. For more than 25 years he was a leader on the Lutheran Campus Ministry Board at KSU. We are confident that every Sunday morning in Heaven, Jerry will be sitting up front at worship, just to make sure he has the best seat in the house to see “the munchkins” during the Children’s Sermon.
Survivors include his wife of 61+ years, Linda Browning Weis, of the home; children Mark S. Weis, Ted P. Weis, Stephanie Weis Grynkiewicz (Ross), and their families: Wilson and Caroline Weis, Isabella and Julia Weis, Joshua and Samantha Grynkiewicz, Patrick Randolph; brother Larry (Janet) Weis; nieces/nephew Barbara Hansen, Pamela Eck (Les), Bruce Weis, and their families.
The family will receive friends on Monday, August 22nd from 5-7pm at the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home. The funeral service, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 23 at First Lutheran Church, will be preceded with organ prelude by Dan Myers beginning at 1:00 p.m.. The service will be followed by burial at Sunrise Cemetery. To celebrate this life of Jerry that was well-lived and full of laughter, the family invites all to join them immediately following the burial. We will come together at Prairie Star Restaurant, Meadowlark Hills to share stories and raise a toast. This is what he would want - no one loved “working the room” more than Jerry. We know he’ll be there with us in spirit.
Memorial contributions can be made to: Be Able, First Lutheran Church Patchwork Fund, or Manhattan Arts Center.
Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz, Manhattan, KS 66502.