This biography was printed in November 1982 by the William Halls Family Organization in its family periodical,
Through the Halls of History, Kristine Halls Smith, editor
© 1982 William Halls Family Organization
Florence Halls Gerdel was the 8th daughter and 12th and last child of William Halls (1834-1920) and Johanne Marie Frandsen (1855-1913)
by Florence Louise Gerdel, Daughter
Florence Halls, the twelfth and last child of William Halls and Johanne Frandsen Halls, was born in a log cabin in Webber on the outskirts of Mancos, Colorado on March 12, 1894. Here are some of her happy childhood memories that she shared with us:
Her recollections from her nurse's training years included these:
Her marriage memories included:
From here on I can share some of my more personal memories of my mother: After her marriage, Mother did not work professionally as a nurse, except as a regular volunteer for well‑baby clinics, until after my sister and I were in nursing school ourselves. She did work hard, however (without ever looking frazzled!) keeping a clean, comfortable home for the family, cooking nourishing food, canning in the summertime, washing all but the heaviest clothes by hand, sewing most of our clothes, and being at home and available for our needs.
Somehow she managed to feed the family on $10 a week, and out of that pay $2 for music lessons for us. She herself had tried hard to learn to play the piano when a child, but her teacher had never let her progress beyond the basic exercises, and so she enjoyed our opportunity. She did beautiful hand work and also enjoyed gardening, especially caring for her prize roses, and always kept fresh, attractive bouquets in the house. She took pride in dressing nicely and was a beautiful woman as well as an excellent mother.
She kept us "on the straight and narrow" in a kind, loving, matter-of‑fact way, with constant interest in and enthusiasm for our activities. I remember the complete confidence we had that our mother would be available to do anything -- make costumes for plays and other events, go to the slaughter house to get cows' eyes for a science class, show our friends how to make taffy, drive us to activities when necessary ‑- anything that was for our happiness and good.
Although she was quiet, she was a friendly person and had a pleasing, dry wit that people enjoyed. When we entered school she became active in the PTA. She seemed to have a knack for organizing and getting work done and was soon president. Geraldine and I went to the Presbyterian Sunday School, and she became involved in the women's activities of the church, eventually becoming president of the Women's Society of the local church and then president of larger areas.
During this time she made one of her few trips out of California, going all the way "back East" to Grand Rapids, Michigan (!) for a national meeting, although she did visit relatives and nursing school friends in the Salt Lake area several times, along with a couple of trips back home to Mancos, plus one that meant much to her, and especially to me, to Colombia, South America, in late 1971 --at 77 years of age -- her only trip out of the U.S.A.
Although she never forgot her chilly Mormon baptism and had great respect for her father, his religious convictions, and the way of life of her early years, she became a member of the Presbyterian Church. She was shy in sharing her personal beliefs but during the latter years of her life, forced to rest because of not very vigorous health and finding it difficult to read because of cataracts, she spent many hours daily listening to Bible studies and messages on the radio, knowing that "the holy scriptures. . . are able to make thee wise unto salvation which is in Christ Jesus." (II Tim, 3:15).
Our father, Louis Edward "Doc" Gerdel, was born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 23, 1885, and if my information is correct, he was the next to last of eleven children, of whom only six lived to adulthood. He grew up in a German‑speaking neighborhood. His father, born about 1845, had emigrated from Germany and as a teenager served as a drummer in the Civil War. His maternal grandmother had emigrated from Holland.
His own mother was a very hard worker in the days when women made their own soap in the backyard ‑- and prepared barrels of sauerkraut in the basement. The family was poor and he left school at an early age to help provide, and especially so that his mother would not have to work so hard.
In his mid‑teens he traveled around a good bit, ending up in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he learned the shoe‑cutting trade and became very skilled in getting the maximum pieces of material from the leather hides assigned to him. In 1910, he signed to serve in the U.S. Navy and was sent to Mare Island Navy Yard, just off San Pablo Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) for duty at the hospital where he became a medical corpsman, something he loved and that affected the rest of his life. It was there that he acquired the nickname "Doc" and few people actually ever knew his given name. He did not have a lot of sea duty, but did participate in a small skirmish called "The Battle of Nicaragua" and years later received a bronze medal for that.
He only "shipped over" once since. He had begun to get into business in Vallejo, California where he did a lot of driving for other people. There were few paved roads and few cars in those days. He met our mother in San Francisco in 1920 when she was doing private duty nursing there, and they married that year. From then on he worked mostly in men's clothing, having a knack for helping working men from the Navy Yard look sharp when they needed nice clothes for special occasions.
His family was very important to him, and his greatest desire was our happiness. He thought the world of our mother and often let her know that she was the most beautiful woman, the best cook (he hated to eat anywhere but at home), and was terribly proud when we did well in school, took part in a program, or had our names in the local newspaper, for whatever small reason! He was affectionate but still very definitely in charge of the family and home, with a strong, firm voice and equally firm opinions.
He worked until in his middle seventies, when he couldn't get employment any more, and this greatly depressed him, even though he was, of course, slowing down physically, something he did not want to admit. Up into his eighties he enjoyed showing visitors how he could still bend down and touch his toes. Physical weakness was not for him -- he even went to the door to greet the doctor after Mother had, with great difficulty, persuaded the doctor to make a house call because he simply was not able to make it to the doctor's office. This feat did not exactly please the doctor! He died on May 8, 1971, after a brief hospital stay, at the age of 85.
On August 25, 1973 Florence attended the annual meeting of the Family Organization named after her father William Halls and organized in 1952. The reunion / genealogy meeting was held that year in Murray, Utah, the first and only time she attended. Everyone there was thrilled to meet Florence, most for the first time. The launching of the first issue of the family periodical voted that day to be named Through the Halls of History, was the impetus for Florence and many others' new interest. At that time Florence and her brothers Lewis and Frank were the only surviving children of William Halls. Lewis died in 1974 and Frank in 1978.
From December, 1971 on, Florence lived with her daughter Geraldine and her family in Van Nuys, California, till her death on May 2, 1979.