Eileen Louise Gerngross
Eileen Louise Gerngross, 98, passed away peacefully on November 16, 2018 at her home in Santa Barbara. Born on July 17, 1920 in Norfolk, VA, Eileen was the only child of Anne Louise and Carl William Fleischer.
She grew up on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, playing on the beach and doing well in school. In 1933 she weathered one of the most damaging hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard but her family house survived – only the roof blew off the porch. After high school, Eileen worked and attended William and Mary College until the war broke out and she joined the WAC and got a job in NYC.
After the war she attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, now Virginia Tech, and earned a BS in Chemistry. Her beloved half-brother, Eugene, helped her with expenses using his earnings from the Merchant Marine. It was here she met her future husband, John Eugene Gerngross, on a blind date. They married in 1948 and moved to Chicago where Eileen got a job as a chemist on the Manhattan Project at Argonne National Labs. She worked for three years helping support the family while John finished his PhD course work. She loved singing and during her spare time she joined the local church choir and continued to pursue this lifelong passion for the next 50 years in many forms and places.
In the early 50’s Eileen and John moved to upstate New York for work and they started their family there. Son John was born followed by daughter Joanna four years later and Eileen’s life focus shifted to them. Frequent moves took the family to Washington, DC, rural Baltimore, Tarzana, CA and finally suburban Boston during the turbulent late 60’s and early 70’s.
In 1981, after an early retirement, Eileen and John sold their house, purchased a sailboat in Maine and took off on a six-year sailing adventure that took them thousands of miles up and down the U.S. East Coast and throughout the Bahamas. They had many fun adventures, lots of family visits and the occasional adrenaline-charged moments. It was a special time in their lives.
After selling the boat, they moved to California in 1989 to be near their grandchildren. Eileen was a devoted grandmother and was always available at a moment’s notice to care for them. She loved going to Switzerland to see her daughter, granddaughters and extended family.
A prolific reader, Eileen could always be counted on to gift quality books on every occasion. She was never one to let a conversation lapse into silence and always had something interesting to say at the slightest hint of a lull. Known for her keen observation skills and quick wit, she kept everyone on their toes and many a riotous laugh could be heard coming from her room at the retirement community.
Eileen’s bright and tenacious spirit always stayed with her. Her strong and engaging personality shone brighter than ever as life’s challenges mounted. She deeply missed her late husband but was truly grateful for all the love and support given her by the constant stream of family and caregivers during her latter years. She will be dearly missed.
Eileen was predeceased by her husband of 66 years, John, and is survived by her loving family including her children John, Jr. and wife Cheryl Doty of Santa Barbara; Joanna Louise Hediger and husband Joe of Ibach, Switzerland; grandchildren Emily Gerngross, Lilian Dutoit, Anna Gerngross, and Melanie Dutoit; step-grandson Austin Gibson.
Memorial donations may be made to the Valle Verde Scholarship Fund through the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.