Jerome Head Gundersen Sr.
Jerome H. Gundersen Sr. died peacefully in his home on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020, surrounded by family. Jerome was born on March 18th, 1936 to Dr. Sigurd B. Gundersen, Sr. and Eleanor Head Gundersen in Evanston, Illinois. He was raised in La Crosse, where he attended Campus Elementary School and Central High School. In 10th grade, Jerome met Charlene Torgerson, who later became his wife for 61 years and mother of their four sons. She was with him when he passed away as she had been continuously for their entire lives. They were each other’s world.
After graduating from Central, Jerome attended Harvard College, followed by medical school at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. He and Charlene were married in 1959. Following medical school, he completed his medical internship and residency at Northwestern University. After five years in Chicago, the family moved to Wichita, KS, where Jerome served for two years in the US Air Force. Following his military service, he joined his father and two brothers at Gundersen Clinic and Lutheran Hospital. At one time, there were seven Gundersen doctors practicing simultaneously at the Clinic. In order to keep them all straight, they were known by their first names. “Dr. Jerome” remained at Gundersen for the rest of his career and in La Crosse for the rest of his life.
Dr. Jerome cared for his patients and delivered babies in La Crosse for over 35 years. He was also a Fellow and Board Member of the American Society for Colposcopy and an early adopter of the use of the Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) for the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancers. His life’s work was bringing babies into the world and keeping women healthy. He loved his work.
Dr. Jerome’s influence spread beyond his passion for clinical care and research. He was a leader on women’s health issues and helped start the Options clinic. He was instrumental in starting Gundersen’s midwifery program in 1975. In addition, in order to assure quality care, he helped craft the original legislation defining the licensure and certification requirements of midwifery. In 1988, Dr. Jerome was recruited and served as Chairperson of Governor Thompson’s HIV Infection Advisory Council, which established the clinical, programmatic and legal foundations of Wisconsin’s successful efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For years, when asked how long he intended to continue practicing, his response was that he would stop when it was no longer any fun. That day came when he retired in 1999, declaring his intention of “doing nothing and getting good at it.”
Outside of medicine, Jerome lived fully. Jerome was an avid upland bird hunter, a lover of the outdoors and a student of nature’s minutia. He was an enthusiastic reader, especially biographies and histories. A life-long Republican, his political involvement provided a lifetime of memories and friendships. Together, Jerome and Charlene cherished their friends. Many happy and memorable days and nights were spent playing tennis and bridge amid a continuous current of camaraderie. Jerome especially looked forward to the fellowship and fun times with his decades-old “Mathematics Club” (poker group) and sometimes he even came home with a little money in his pocket.
Fortunately, his family were also his friends. He had an endless love for his siblings, cousins and their families. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Reunions and other gatherings were some of his greatest joys. His tone-deaf singing of Norwegian Christmas songs while surrounded by women in bunads and men in red ties will be an enduring vision of his happiest moments. Annual Super Bowl parties, Badger, Packer, Brewer and Bucks games were also an opportunity to eat, talk, cheer, and commiserate with those he loved.
Above all, Bompa was fiercely and eternally devoted to his wife and children. Charlene and their four boys were always the most important part of his life. Whatever their endeavors, he was unquestioningly supportive of his children and grandchildren.
Family vacations were always at Leikvold, their cabin Up North in Hayward, where Bompa and Nana spent summers in their retirement years. Leikvold, Norwegian for “playground,” is a place where his memory will always live on.
Dr. Jerome was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Sigurd B. Gundersen, Sr. and Eleanor Head Gundersen, by his brothers Leif and Adolf and his sisters Elizabeth (Sommerfeldt) and Eleanor (Burden). He is survived by his beloved wife, Charlene, their four sons; Jerome Jr. (Cathy), Chuck (Tracey), Erik (Margy), and David (Amie), as well as nine grandchildren; Erin (Collin), Ailey (Amberlee), Thomas, Andrew, Caroline, Tessa, Lars, Lucie, and Patrick, great-granddaughter, Clara, brother Sigurd, Jr., and sister-in-law Inger.
The family would like to give special thanks for the wonderful medical care from the team at Gundersen Health System, and the home care provided by Recover Health and Gundersen Hospice. Their excellent and compassionate care at every stage is appreciated.
Jerome aka Dr. Jerome/Domie/Bompa/Big Daddy Gundersen will be deeply missed, and he will be remembered forever by everyone who knew and loved him. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Adolf Gundersen Medical Foundation or a philanthropic organization of your choice. A Celebration of Life will follow when it is once again safe to gather.