For exactly two weeks, there were six members of the 90 club again.
Then on Sunday Annie-Bananie’s brother Ed Gerber, who turned 90 on March 17, died, leaving just five siblings in their 90s and their baby sister Josephine as the only surviving children of Jehu and Lydia Gerber‘s original brood of 16.
“I can’t believe it,” Annie-Bananie said when Colleen and I went to see her Monday afternoon, before adding her trademark phrase: “That’s just the way it is.”
Ed was the brother who moved to Fort Lauderdale and got involved in orange groves and real estate and other businesses. Over the decades he entertained hundreds of Hoosier relatives in the beachfront penthouse apartment he shared with his wife, Vi. He had an electric smile and a warmth that never wavered whether he was shaking your hand in Florida or Indiana, which they visited frequently.
“Ed was always different than any of my other nine uncles,” my dad said, noting that he flew an airplane in his youth and drove a fancy Ford Thunderbird convertible. When my parents got married in1964, Ed’s wedding present to them was free night’s stay in the Gerber Haus, a Fort Wayne hotel he started with a cousin in the 50s. “I think all of my cousins were in awe of him. He was certainly on the cutting edge.”
At Annie-Bananie’s yesterday, looking over a newspaper clipping of her family’s old sugar mill she keeps taped to her closet, I remarked that even in his youth, Ed didn’t look like he belonged on a farm.
“He didn’t think so, either,” Grandma said.
I thought she was referring to his reputation as a risk-taking businessman. Turns out she was just talking about his asthma.
“Vi said she didn’t care, she’d take him anyway,” Grandma added.
Vi was Annie-Bananie’s sister-in-law in more ways than one — her brother’s wife as well as her husband’s sister, though she and Grandpa were nearly a decade older. In 1952, they babysat Ed and Vi’s 2-year-old daughter when the younger, more adventurous couple toured Europe for two months. My grandparents eventually got to Europe, too, but not until 37 years later.
“I think Ed was just born with an adventurous spirit in him,” my dad said. “He was always interesting to talk to, as he was full of knowledge about so many things.”