Seventy-nine years after fighting in an invasion that many historians have said “saved the world,” World War II veteran Henry Gerdes of Huntington has died. He was 103.
Serving in the 204th Engineers Company as a corporal, medical tech, Gerdes’ participation in the June 6, 1944, D-Day operation on Normandy Beach was among the many accolades he achieved during his time serving in the U.S. Army. He earned a Bronze Star for his bravery and quick thinking in saving the life of an infantry major during battle and a Purple Heart medal for injuries he sustained in a mine explosion, according to obituary information posted at A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home, Inc.
Gerdes, who died on June 13, was born Oct. 20, 2019, In New York City. When he was 5, his family moved to Huntington and ran an ice cream store on Main Street.
Before going off to war as a young man, Gerdes graduated from Huntington High School in 1938 and worked in the family’s ice cream shop.
After coming home from the war, Gerdes worked for Grumman for 32 years in the tool and records department as an office worker and mid-level manager. After he retired in 1977, he worked two additional summers for Grumman.
Gerdes had joined the Huntington Fire Department in 1939 before heading off to war. He was an 83-year member of the department, receiving an 80-year service award when he was 99.
A devoted Huntington community member, Gerdes enjoyed Heckscher Park so much that he joined an organization to preserve the park and spoke aon the subject at many town hall meetings.
Gerdes is survived by two children, Henry and Betsy; four grandchildren, Mary, Elizabeth, Cody and Rory; and two great-grandchildren, Mateo and Lucy, according to obituary information. His wife, Elizabeth Hipp, died in 1987.