GERALDINE (JERRY) CHITTICK
During the 2020 Region Teleconference, members voted to make a generous monetary donation to the GSW National Treasury and in memory of Geraldine Chittick, affectionately known as "Jerry” who was a very active Midwest Region Member-at-Large. The National President, Nancy Menagh, asked me to write an article about Jerry for members who did not know her. When I joined GSW in 1985 Jerry was the Legislative Chairman, the Midwest Region Treasurer and Editor of the Region Newsletter. After reading GSW newsletters for years, I finally met Jerry in 1999 when I attended my first region conference. If my memory serves me right, this was the only time that I was in her company because by then she had begun to have health problems. So, I am sure many members reading this article knew her better than I, but with the assistance of old newsletters and the Internet I will tell you about a very dedicated GSW.
Geraldine Beisel was born February 22, 1916 in Clinton County, Indiana and graduated from Frankfort High in 1933 as Valedictorian of her class. After graduation, she attended Northwestern University and was a bookkeeper and store manager for the Community Schools of Frankfort for 31 years, retiring in December 1979. In 1938, Jerry met James Chittick, a high school teacher and a Reserve Officer, and they were married on June 2, 1940. James was called to active duty on January 21, 1942. On June 15, 1944, Jerry gave birth to their son, Michael James Chittick. On August 8, 1944, her husband James Chittick was killed in France during World War II.
Jerry joined Gold Star Wives of America in 1946 and was a dedicated member as long as her health permitted. She attended her first national convention in 1963 and was elected to the Board of Directors in 1964. Her first appointment was to the Legislative Committee and in 1965 she was appointed National Legislative Chairman and later became Legislative Advisor. As the National Legislative Chairman, Jerry successfully lobbied Congress for increases in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits and was instrumental in getting a Federal Charter granted to Gold Star Wives.
Jerry served as National Vice-President 1966-1967, and in 1968 was the first Member-at-Large to be elected as National President. As National President, she took up the long fight for the GSW Federal Charter that other National Presidents had started. In February 1969, Jerry and Edith Knowles, Legislative Chairman, visited Indiana Senator Birch Bayh to request sponsorship of the charter legislation. On May 17, 1979 – Senate Bill 1179 was introduced by Senators Bayh, Morgan, Stewart and Thurmond. On November 16, 1979 before the 96th Congress, Senate Bayh introduced Geraldine as a “forceful advocate” for Gold Star Wives of America and Jerry, Edith Knowles and Peggy Simonfy testified before Congress seeking support for Senate Bill 1179. In addition, during the Women’s Forum March 25-28, 1980, 15 GSW members called on over 300 Congressional offices seeking co-sponsors. Finally, on December 4, 1980 a Federal Charter, signed by President Carter, was granted to Gold Star Wives of America.
In addition to national positions, Jerry served as the Midwest Region President in 1972-1973, 1981-1982, 1993-1994 and 1997 and was the Region Treasurer over 20 years. In 1975, she was the first recipient of the GSW Special Recognition Award. This award is given to an active member in good standing who has worked at any level going above and beyond the normal requirements of the position held. Jerry was the recipient of this award again in 1993.
Jerry was also very active in her community: A member of the First Presbyterian Church, where she edited the Scroll, life member of the Order of the Eastern Star Chapter No. 448 of Rossville, Illinois, charter member of the A. J. Foyt Fan Club of Richmond, Indiana, member Phi Beta Psi Sorority, Sigma Chapter, member of the National Association of Retired Teachers Association, and Friends of the Frankfort Public Library.
In early 1991 Jerry had a stroke and after a short recovery period; she continued her dedication to Gold Star Wives serving on the Board of Directors and continuing as Region Treasurer and Newsletter Editor. In the May 1991 Midwest Region newsletter, she wrote: “Regretfully, no member came forward to take these positions; so, I continue to do what I can get done under a great handicap that I hope and pray will not always be this way. I am doing my best until other arrangements can be made. Whatever arrangements are made for collection of next year’s dues, I ask each of you for your fullest cooperation in keeping our GSW membership at 100%.” Jerry remained Region Treasurer until the 1999 Region Conference when Member-at-Large Ellen Pyle was elected and installed as Region Treasurer. Sometime later Jerry was overtaken by other health problems and had to move to a nursing home.
Geraldine (Jerry) Chittick entered eternal rest on December 11, 2002 in Frankfort, Indiana and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia on December 30, 2002. Her burial was attended by GSW members, Rose Lee, Potomac Chapter, Josephine Duncan, Midwest Member-at-Large, and John Brennan, GSW Washington Liaison. A GSW wreath was placed at her grave site.
I am glad Nancy asked me to write this article because it gave me the opportunity to learn more about this remarkable person. During my research, I also learned that Jerry’s son, Michael James Chittick, passed away in Manlius, New York on January 8, 2014. He was survived by his wife Carol; his son James (Michele) and granddaughters, Sarah and Olivia.
Midwest Region President