Cedarville University employee shares how a horrific tragedy helped her grow

Miami Valley News

CEDARVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) — From tragedy to growth, Gerry Walquist’s grief led her on her journey to where she is today.

It took a while for Gerry to get to a point of healing, saying it was only through her faith that she was able to move on and secure a job at Cedarville University where she can now share her story and spread a message of hope and forgiveness to others.

In December 2013 while she, her husband and children were on a family trip in Puerto Rico, tragedy struck.

“Our life had forever been changed because he was no longer there with us,” Gerry tears up. “It was very unreal.”

While vacationing, an intruder broke into their complex fatally stabbing her husband Brett. Rachel was 12 at the time; Thomas was 10.

“I told them that they needed to say goodbye to daddy,” Gerry cries recalling Brett’s final moments as she and her children prayed over him. “He died moments later. It was very quick.”

Police made an arrest within a week, and five months later a trial took place. Coming face-to-face with husband’s killer in court, Gerry spoke to him before he was sentenced to a life term in prison.

“We looked eye-to-eye for about five seconds and it felt like an eternity,” admits Gerry, who hadn’t quite let go of her anger right away. “I wanted him to see the hurt that I was feeling. I wanted him to see my kids through me. I wanted him to see my husband through me.”

Finding forgiveness after several years, Gerry penned a letter to the man who took her husband’s life, but it never reached him. Unbeknownst to Gerry, he died a couple years earlier behind bars.

“I mourned that. I mourned not having been able to let him know that I had forgiven him,” says Gerry. “I wanted him to know that his life did not have to be wasted.”

Nearly eight years later, Gerry continues to cope and still carries forgiveness in her heart.

“Time helps. It doesn’t take it away. But it helps,” says Gerry. “Through that forgiveness I’m able to forgive the man who did this, I can forgive others, and I can move on because of that.”

She was also able to move forward with the support of her family.

“We’re very tight. So we all needed each other. The three of us really supported each other,” says Gerry.

After Brett’s death, Gerry had to fill his role to provide for her family. Brett was the bread winner.

“I was quite dependent on my husband for a lot of different things,” states Gerry.

After the trial, Gerry took a job teaching at Legacy Christian Academy in Xenia. In March 2021, she accepted a position at Cedarville University as the Human Resources Administrative Assistant.

“My life really is full right now,” says Gerry. “It took some time and it took a lot of strength that comes from the Lord. But He continues to give us strength and it’s a daily thing, and so we are able to continue on.”

Gerry continues to have support with her family very close. Rachel is a junior at Cedarville University; Thomas will be a freshman in the fall.

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