“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2:9
At daybreak on October 2, 2019, after decades in the darkness of total blindness and a lifetime of impaired hearing, Gerald E. Housenfleur was ushered into the eternal light of the Lord Jesus Christ and heaven’s angel choirs. Waiting to greet him were his beloved mother, Nina Lureline S. Ferguson; stepfather, Paul J. Ferguson; brother-in-law, Lee T. Lawson and a host of other loved ones. His sister whom he cherished, Paulette Ferguson Lawson, was by his side as his spirit was set free.
Gerald was born in Roanoke on November 15, 1927, to Emil R. and Lureline S. Housenfleur. His childhood years were spent in the Grandin Court area where fond memories were created highlighted by thrilling sledding adventures down the steep snow covered streets, attending the original two room Grandin Court Elementary School, being taught how to kick a football by older neighborhood boys and sneaking downtown on the city bus.
His lifelong love of sports was sparked by participation in sandlot and rec team sports as a youngster preparing him well for being a valued member of the Nazareth High School football team as kicker, point guard on the basketball teams of Nazareth and Hargrave Military Academy and first baseman on the Hargrave baseball team.
The carefree days of school, sports and youth were interrupted by his notification of military draft orders as WW II was coming to a close. With pockets of Japanese resistance fighters remaining that could instill casualties and do harm after the August 1945 surrender, the presence of U.S military forces was needed. During this period Gerald served in the U.S. Army Occupation Forces stationed in Sindai, Japan. He developed a proud love of country and a deep respect for its veterans which eventually
led him to volunteer over 13,500 hours of service at the Salem V.A. Medical Center in later years.
After discharge from the military Gerald worked in Santa Monica, California, where he was always on the lookout for celebrities. He later returned to Roanoke for employment with Clover Creamery followed by several decades as a baker with Kroger Bakery.
In the 1970’s the acceleration of a degenerative retinal condition necessitated his early retirement and eventually resulted in total loss of sight. Gerald’s quiet courage in embracing life despite his hearing difficulty and progressive loss of vision made him an inspiration to all who knew him. He completed several training programs at The Blind Center in West Haven, CT, pursued guitar lessons, volunteered at the VA Medical Center and for twenty five years participated in bowling tournaments throughout the country as a member of the Roanoke Blind Bowlers. Despite total loss of sight, he proved to be an excellent ballroom dance student and delighted in attending dances as a member of the 300 Club. The joy he derived from music and dancing throughout his life was attributable to being immersed in the excitement of big band sounds and popular dances of the ‘40s at his mother’s hugely popular “Riverjack Dance Pavilion” with its magnificent 80 ft. hardwood dance floor and live orchestras. During his later years he delighted in sharing his stories of the incomparable “Riverjack days.”
Gerald had compassion for the less fortunate, the homeless and those struck by disaster. He supported the ministry and work of the Samaritan Inn, the Rescue Mission, the Red Cross and the ministry of his friend, David Hall, in Appalachia. He exhibited an unshakable faith in God and treasured his baptism at First Christian Church-Roanoke and the spiritual bonds he shared with his church family. He was deeply touched by the church’s outpouring of love and caring during his homebound years and his final months of life. His faith experience was enriched by times of worship at Rosalind Hills Baptist Church. The family is indebted to the pastors and congregations of First Christian, Rosalind Hills Baptist and Garst Mill Presbyterian for their faithful support during Gerald’s decline.
Wherever the path of life took him Gerald had the ability to form enduring friendships that withstood time and distance and often spanned generations. He and his loyal friends from near and far remained connected to the very end through visits, phone calls, and letters. Gerald was blessed by innumerable acts of heartfelt kindness on the part of wonderful neighbors, long time family friends and his cousins, Gail, Susan and Linda, who were so devoted to him during his end of life journey. He will be missed as much as he was loved which is immeasurable.
Those who loved Gerald are indebted to those whose compassionate medical care gave us extra months to reminisce, laugh, sing, cry, pray and share his everyday life. We are forever grateful to the following: Pamela K. Cassell, FNP, and the entire staff of Salem Family Clinic who faithfully and lovingly provided years of exceptional medical care as if Gerald were their own brother; Roanoke Speech and Hearing Center; Roanoke Emergency Medical Services Stations # 4 and # 7; Lewis Gale Hospital’s Emergency Department, Surgical Intensive Care Unit and 6 West Nursing Unit; Amedisys Home Health; Carilion Hospice Services and the warm companionship and invaluable assistance of Mary McKinney and Frederick Tembo.
Services with military honors will be held on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. with visitation one hour prior to the service at First Christian Church (344 Church Ave. Downtown Roanoke). Reverends Tim Dayton, Jim Rivers and Joy Sylvester-Johnson will officiate. Interment will be private at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens.