COVID memorials: Agonizing goodbye to wife who was high school sweetheart

Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game and became high school sweethearts.. SUBMITTED

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Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game and became high school sweethearts.. SUBMITTED

Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game. Linda was a sophomore and Jerry a senior. She was in the marching band; he a three-sport letterman.

“We were high school sweethearts,” Jerry said.

Today and throughout the week, the Dayton Daily News remembers people from the region we lost and gives voice to those who loved them.

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Together 59 years, the avid travelers went to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in September after postponing several other trips earlier in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the way back, Linda, 73, developed severe breathing problems, and they called for an ambulance in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she was admitted to a hospital.

“I stayed with her until they took her to her room. I was not allowed to go with her,” Jerry said. “I kissed her and told her I loved her, not knowing that would be the last time I would speak to her face-to-face.”

Linda died Sept. 24.

They married between Jerry’s junior and senior years at Northwestern University where he played football. After college they returned to Fairfield and raised three children.

Linda worked for a time at Marilyn’s Shoppe, a dress store in Hamilton, as well as at Shillito’s, where she helped hire people to work at the department store. She also worked with infants at a child care.

Linda was also active at their church, Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Hamilton, where she was known for cooking up entire dinners of spaghetti and meatballs and baking cookies for children’s programs, Jerry said.

Jerry had a 51-year career in education, first teaching science, then physical education as well as coaching multiple sports. He later moved into administration in the Mt. Healthy City School District, where he was a principal before taking a central office position. He finished his career at the Hamilton County Educational Service Center, retiring three years ago.

While they greatly enjoyed travel, including about 20 cruises and other overseas trips, home life mattered the most, Jerry said.

“We just enjoyed ourselves together. What I wouldn’t give to hear her say, ‘Jerry, get me another cup of coffee,’” he said. “You just don’t realize those things until they are gone.”

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Christmas was also a special time for the family, which expanded to include six grandchildren. In February last year, Linda visited her second great-grandchild in Tampa.

“She was a wonderful, wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother,” Jerry said.

As Jerry prepared to return to Knoxville, he also fell ill with the virus and spent eight days hospitalized. During that time Linda had been placed on a ventilator, given a tracheotomy and eventually went into a coma.

Once he was released from the hospital, Jerry and their children drove to Knoxville, where Linda was on life support.

“She had a living will and we knew it was time to say goodbye. The most difficult and agonizing thing in my life followed. Tubes were removed, and I held her until she took her last breath. It only took 15 minutes before our heavenly Father took her home.”

Linda’s legacy will be the close family she nurtured, Jerry said.

“She loved her family,” he said. “Don’t take tomorrow for granted. Share your love with your family today.”

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