Gertrude “Gert” Fondell died peacefully at Legend Senior Living in Tulsa, OK on February 14, 2019 at the age of 92.
Gertrude Rachel Franklin was born on October 22, 1926 in Willmar, MN, the eighth of ten children of Rev. Nathaniel and Lillian (Peterson) Franklin. She was baptized, confirmed and came to faith in the Willmar Covenant Church. She graduated from Willmar High School in 1945 and attended North Park College, graduating with an associate’s degree in 1947. She moved to Dawson where her father was serving the Dawson Covenant Church and taught country school at District 37 in Yellow Medicine County.
While in Dawson, Gert met Ralph Vernon Fondell and they were married on Sept. 3, 1948 at Dawson Covenant Church. For the next 11 years, they lived in Minneapolis, Chicago, West Virginia and Kentucky in preparation and training for their calling to radio ministry. In 1958, Ralph and Gert were commissioned as missionaries by the Evangelical Covenant Church to Nome. In the summer of 1959, shortly after Alaska’s statehood, they arrived with their young family in Nome and were instrumental in establishing the radio station KICY, serving there until 1984. Gert’s was a regular voice on the radio with her programs “Lines from a Mother’s Scrapbook” and “Gert’s Corner.” While in Nome, Gert maintained the FCC licenses required for coastal radiotelegraph stations and served as a state officer of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was also an active member of Covenant churches in Nome, Anchorage and Eagle River, faithfully doing hospital visitation and leading women’s Bible studies. Her strong alto voice was well-known in Nome where Gert often provided special music for funerals and other occasions.
Gert’s gift of hospitality was extended to hundreds of visitors to their home in their years of ministry in Alaska. Though her life in Alaska separated her from her family in Minnesota, her larger KICY family included the staff families and volunteers who came to Alaska over several decades. Gert’s Christmas Eve Swedish smorgasbord was open to all KICY volunteers, providing a welcome holiday tradition for those living far from home.
In retirement, Gert and Ralph moved to Eagle River, then Chugiak and recently, to Tulsa. They enjoyed trips to Europe, China, Greece, the Holy Land and the Maritime Provinces with annual trips to visit their children and grandchildren.
Gertrude is survived by her loving husband of 70 years, Ralph Fondell, their daughters Kathryn (James) Congdon of Manley, AK and Rebecca (Wayne) Carlson of Algonquin, IL; sons Stephen (Lynne) Fondell of Jenks, OK and John (TrucLien) Fondell of Eagle River, AK; and daughter-in-law Luanne Fondell of Dawson, MN. She was a loving grandmother to 16 grandchildren Douglas (Alana) Congdon; Katalla (Mark) Fairbanks; Kiana Markham; Jeffrey (Maureen) Congdon; Michael (Meghan) Congdon; Nathaniel (Ellen) Fondell; Elisabeth Fondell (Benjamin Tokheim); Jonathan Fondell; Kathleen (Adam) Merrill; Paul (Shannon) Carlson; Tamara Carlson; Jessica (Taylor) Maxwell; Nikki Fondell; Aimee (Justin) Klinefelter; Alex and Brelien Fondell and great-grandmother to 18 great-grandchildren: Aubrey, Dillon and Cole Congdon, Tamara (Jeremy) Jenkins, Jared Fairbanks and Jaxton Fairbanks, Merrianne and Carl Markham, Milo and Alyssa Congdon, Everly, Oskar and Arlo Fondell; Logan and Eli Carlson; Judah, Ezra and Abel Maxwell and two great-great grandchildren, Jace and Reece Jenkins. She is also survived by her brother-in-law Guido Kauls and sister-in-law Eileen Fondell and numerous loving nieces and nephews from both the Fondell and Franklin extended families.
Preceding her in death were an infant son, her parents, siblings and spouses and her son Daniel Fondell.
A memorial service will be held at a later date with burial at Dawson Covenant Church, rural Dawson, MN. The family requests that memorials be directed to KICY Radio, PO Box 820, Nome AK 99762. Peace to her memory.