Farming Rural 18

Steven H Gerdes

June 17, 1955 ~ July 30, 2023 (age 68) 68 Years Old


Steven Herbert Gerdes passed into eternal life on Sunday, the 30th of July 2023, following a brief illness. He was a beloved husband, son, brother, uncle and friend to so many people throughout his life. Steve was born in Walnut, Illinois, on the 17th of June 1955, and raised by loving parents with his sister on a farm. 

He is preceded in death by his father and friend, Herbert Carl Gerdes, grandparents Clair and Grace Pfoutz and Etta and John Gerdes. Steve is survived by his wife, Julia Anne Gerdes; his mother, Bertie Lou Gerdes; his sister, Julie Gerdes Peterson and husband Kurt; nephews, Reid and Jake Peterson, and their families; stepsons, Chris Williams and John Williams and his wife Autumn; as well as many uncles, aunts and cousins, all of whom he loved dearly. 

Steve was a nationally recognized tax attorney specializing in public finance. His clients included cities, counties, hospitals, school districts, universities, toll roads, airports and not for profits throughout the nation. Among his many honors, Steve was named Best Lawyers’ Houston Public Finance Lawyer of the Year three times in his distinguished career (2012, 2016 and 2018). His efforts enabled many entities to finance essential infrastructure, hospitals and other projects benefiting the country in countless ways for years to come. 

Steve overcame many obstacles in his life with courage, dignity and optimism. He was graduated as valedictorian of his high school class after suffering a paralyzing football injury in his senior year. Undaunted, he went on to the University of Illinois where he entered the College of Agriculture. His accomplishments there are many, including the highest academic honors, being named a Bronze Scholar in 1977 for being in the top 3% of the university, graduating with a degree in agricultural finance and accounting as well as becoming a certified public accountant and developing lifelong friendships. While in college, Steve worked with his mentor, Dr. Thomas Frey, to develop the accounting forms used to compute the change in financial position that were used in agricultural banking for over 25 years. Steve was grateful for the guidance he received from Dean Warren Wessels and Dr. Frey during his years at the University of Illinois, and maintained life-long friendships with them.

Steve had his sights set on law school and scored in the 99th percentile on LSAT exam, earning him admissions to the most prestigious law schools in the country. He chose the Harvard Law School, where he continued to excel, including the best brief in the Ames-Moot Court competition. In addition, Steve became an instructor for the International Tax Program at Harvard and received the 1980 Harold Sharper Achievement Award.

Upon graduation from Harvard, Steve joined Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston, Texas where he would spend more than 30 years. Steve’s hard work was recognized for its quality and insightfulness. He worked on many different briefs, including drafting a brief with Marvin K. Collie, William M. Linden, and Clive Bode on a successful matter before the Supreme Court of the United States as a young lawyer in the case of Farmar v. United States. After retiring from Vinson & Elkins as a partner, he joined Bracewell LLP in 2012 as a partner, retiring in 2021. 

Steve was actively involved in various professional and civic organizations. He was a fellow of the American College of Bond Counsel and a member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers and served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Vivian L. Smith Foundation for Neurologic Research. Always a farm boy at heart, Steve stayed true to his roots as a donor to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Fair Calf Scramble Committee and Steer Auction. He also contributed to the Bureau County Cattleman’s Association. In 1994, Steve was honored as the “Comeback Alumnus Guest” by the Student Alumni Association of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and in 2004, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign presented Steve with the ACES Award of Merit, both in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments, leadership, and service.

Steve loved his hometown of Walnut and remained an active member of that community, acquiring many farms and operating a successful building components company with his uncle Larry Gerdes. He was as an accomplished farmer as he was lawyer. Steve experienced great joy in beginning his farming activities with his father. Steve saw himself as a steward of land and worked tirelessly with his farmers to continuously improve the soil on his farms. Steve shared his passion for agriculture with young people through mentoring students and friends with their FFA projects, supporting the Spring Tri-Club, and the Future Farmers of America. In 2017 the National FFA awarded Steve an Honorary American FFA Degree at the National Convention in recognition of his efforts. In 2022, The Spring Tri-Club honored Steve for his many years of support of students and their agricultural education. 

Steve was brilliant and fearless. He was a master at giving other people credit while quietly accomplishing many different goals and pursuits. He embraced life with dedication and a smile. He always made time for others, and developed many lifelong friendships throughout many different walks of life. Steve was a pillar of strength to many people in their time of need as he showed resolve and compassion. Steve’s legacy is the impact on the lives he touched that will be felt for many years and his friendship will be greatly missed. 

The family would like to recognize the many caregivers in Steve’s life, in particular Matthew DeChellis. They helped him to pursue his dreams and accomplish his many goals.

Services will be held privately for his family in Houston. Visitation will be held in Walnut, Illinois on Saturday, August 12, 2023 from 10:00-11:00 A.M. at the Garland Funeral Home. Funeral service will follow at 11:00 A.M. with the interment to conclude at Walnut Cemetery. A reception will follow and be announced at services.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family respectably requests that inquiries regarding memorial contributions be made by contacting via email Donations will be used in support of improvements to the Village of Walnut, Illinois and Agricultural Education.

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August 12, 2023

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Garland Funeral Home
14733 IL HWY 92
Walnut, IL 61376

Funeral Service
August 12, 2023

11:00 AM
A.M. Burial (Walnut Cemetery)


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