In Memoriam: Carl Gerdau ’59, DD ‘12

The Rev. Canon Carlson Gerdau, Class of 1959 and a recipient of General’s honorary doctorate in 2012, died Saturday, May 27, 2017 of heart failure at the age of 84.

Gerdau served as canon to two Presiding Bishops: the Most Rev. Frank Griswold and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori during her transition into office. With a particular interest and expertise in seminary education, he served as Chair of the Board of Bexley Hall Seminary, and also received honorary doctorates from Bexley as well as Virginia Theological Seminary. Having served the Church Pension Fund and numerous boards and committees during some of the most challenging times, he was an extraordinary leader and example for the Seminary’s students.

“Carl defined ‘loyal son’ for General Seminary,” said Dean Dunkle on hearing of his death, “His lifelong devotion to his seminary was legend. He was my good friend and mentor from my first days as a Canon to the Ordinary and a tremendous friend to our institution. He has left a lasting mark on The Episcopal Church. We will all miss him.”

Gerdau was Superior General of the Oratorio of the Good Shepherd, an international Anglican order which he joined in 1964. One of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd’s most senior members, he was the longtime Prior of the United States College and served as the Oratory’s Superior between 2005 and 2011.

Born February 22, 1933 to the late Kathryn Schaefer Gerdau and Carl Gerdau of New York City, Gerdau was a graduate of Harvard before attending General.  He found his vocation in the church in 1949 by serving as a counselor to the Brantwood Camp in Peterborugh, NH. He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Anson P. Stokes, Jr. of Massachusetts and to the priesthood by Bishop Herman R. Page in 1959. He requested a position in the Midwest and served as vicar of St Mark’s, Ewen, MI and Church of the Ascension, Ontonagon, MI, 1959-1965, St David’s, Sidnaw, MI, 1960-1965, Church of the Nativity, L’Anse, MI, 1962-1965, St. John’s Church, Munising, MI, 1965-1971; and Rector, Trinity Church, Houghton, MI, 1971-1978. In 1979 he was appointed Archdeacon, Diocese of Missouri, St. Louis, MO, where he served until 1986. After a sabbatical year spent studying Spanish in Guatemala and theology at the University of Chicago, he resumed his ministry as Interim Rector, St Gregory’s Church, Deerfield, IL, 1987-1988. He became Director for Ministry, Deployment, and Communication in the Diocese of Chicago where he served as Canon to the Ordinary, 1988-1997. He returned to New York City as Canon to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, 1998-2007. He served on the boards of the Episcopal Church Pension Fund; Bexley Hall Seminary, where he became chair and oversaw its federation with Seabury-Western Seminary; Auburn Seminary; the Church Historical Society; and Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in the USA.

Gerdau was a lifelong Democrat, a supporter of women’s ordination, and was known for his mentoring skills, gruffness and generosity, and love of reading. He was a member of the Union Club, the Harvard Club, and the Church Club. He is survived by his four nieces, the daughters of his sister, Sondra Gerdau Blewer: Cecilia Blewer of New York City, Evelyn Blewer of Paris, Victoria Blewer of Weybridge, VT, Julia Cox of Boxford, MA and their husbands: Clayton Young, Chris Bohjalian, and Robert Cox; and their children: Theodore Young, Catherine and Grace Blewer, Thomas and Myrna Cox; cousins; and many friends.

The funeral will be Wednesday, May 31 at 11:00 am at his ancestral church, St. Luke’s Lutheran, 308 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. There will be a private burial at Woodlawn.