Gerrie Lynn Lee was born Feb. 22, 1945, to Emery and Wilma Heinemeyer in Naval Hospital, San Diego, Calif. She died peacefully Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, at her home in Clarkston.
Emery took his discharge from the U.S. Navy after the war ended, then he, Wilma and Gerrie left to create their life together. Their journey took them to Moscow, Lewiston, Harrington, Wash., Garfield Bay and back to Lewiston, where Gerrie started sixth grade. Along the way, the family grew, with brothers Mike and Mark and sister Denise.
The family had restaurants, so Gerrie learned an early work ethic, helping in the family businesses. She was an excellent student, but her Lewiston High School chemistry teacher, Mr. Shinn, said, “No one has more fun than Gerrie.” After graduating from high school, she attended Lewis-Clark State College, working different jobs to support herself.
Never afraid to try new things, between her junior and senior high school years, she took a summer job in Montana’s Glacier National Park. She left school at LCSC and moved to New York City to work in an upscale jewelry store. She married there and had two sons, Douglas Emery Lee and James Joseph Lee.
She never met a stranger, so her people skills made sales and advertising a natural career choice. She was advertising manager at the Valley American newspaper for five years. She was outside sales and marketing director at Twin City Printing for two years. When her nurse practitioner needed an office manager, she stepped in for a year at the Women’s Health Care Clinic. She also served as an advertising account executive at KCLK Radio for seven years. During her working years, she participated in many projects with the Chambers of Commerce and other local groups to enhance community life and local business.
And while working full time and raising two active boys, she also went back to LCSC and graduated in 1985 with her bachelor’s degree in business and social science. In 1989, Gerrie married Clyde Nicely and helped in the raising of his two sons, Benjamin Landreth Nicely and Matthew Ward Nicely.
Gerrie loved and treasured her sons and stepsons. Gramma was a role she really enjoyed, always thinking of some little treat she could give them.
As busy as her life was, she still made time for fun. She loved to dance and attend local theater performances. An enthusiastic thrift-store shopper, she delighted in finding deals on exclusive brands she had discovered during her years in New York City.
Gerrie loved people, and people loved her in return. She also advocated for the rights of the marginalized people in our society and stood up for her own ideals. In elementary school in Harrington, one of her classmates said, “At recess we’re going to sneak down and smoke a cigarette.” Gerrie said, “Well, I’m not going.” Even when told, “Then none of the other girls will play with you,” she bowed her neck and refused. Of course, the other girls still played with her because she was a lot of fun. She was proud of never having smoked.
In New York, while living in the YWCA and later in a private apartment, she had two African American roommates. Others found that strange, but Gerrie did not. “They’re just very nice girls,” she said.
She was a cofounder of Feminine Forum, an organization that for several years put on events designed to enrich and empower area women. She served on the executive board of the YWCA and on the board of Advocates for Respect and Equality, a local human rights organization. She served on the board and devoted considerable energy to Quality Behavioral Health, our provider of community behavioral health services. She joined PFLAG and advocated for LGBT rights. She was a proud, life-long Democrat.
To paraphrase the nuns who sang about Maria in “The Sound of Music”: How do you summarize a life like Gerrie’s?
She was a loving wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend. She worked hard and made time for fun. She hated to be cold. The sight of a stray dog or cat could almost bring tears. She made friends easily and treasured her friendships. She talked to the persons next to her in line, and sometimes got a new friend. She didn’t like to cook but loved to eat. Her sense of style was impeccable. She laughed easily and grieved deeply. She made a mark on many lives and will be missed by many.
She is survived by her husband, Clyde, his sons, Benjamin and Matthew; her sons, Doug, Joe and Joe’s wife, Jaimee, and eight grandchildren; and her brother, Mark, and her sister, Denise. Brother Mike preceded her in death.
She wished to be cremated. We hope to do a celebration of her life in the spring. If you would like to do something in her honor, she loved to support the charity Operation Smile.