David Waldemar Gjerde, a retired Procter & Gamble executive who became a restaurant investor and consultant to his sons, Spike and Charlie, died of a heart attack May 2 at his Cockeysville home. He was 75.
Born in Mankato, Minn., he was the son of Waldemar Gjerde, an engineer, and the former Ferne Sorenson, a church organist. Raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, he earned an engineering degree from the University of Iowa. He served in the Army National Guard.
He joined Procter & Gamble in Iowa and moved to Maryland in 1968 with his wife, the former Alice Silletto, and their two sons. They built a Cockeysville home and he worked at the Locust Point P&G plant, now known as Tide Point. He was its personnel manager and handled labor relations.
"His strong point was his ability to keep the peace with the unions," said his son, Charlie Gjerde of Towson. "During contract negotiations, he would be gone for two or three days."
His son said he retired in 1990 after suffering a stoke. He regained his health and then considered doing something else.
"His next act was a restaurant with his children," said another son, Spike Gjerde of Baltimore.
At the time, Charlie Gjerde was working at LensCrafters in Hunt Valley and Spike Gjerde was a pastry chef at Patisserie Poupon and at the old Restaurant 2110 on Charles Street.
Developer C. William Struever met the elder Mr. Gjerde at a wine tasting at Bob Schindler's Pinehurst Gourmet and Spirit Shoppe on Bellona Avenue.
"He was then just cashing in part of his retirement from Procter and Gamble," Mr. Struever recalled. "When I first met him, I liked him immediately. He was a fun, good-hearted soul. Over the years, I learned that Dave was indefatigable in his good will, and he was steadfast in his belief in his two sons. He was there for them in heart and soul, a backer, banker and business adviser."
Spike Gjerde said that a suitable restaurant location initially "proved elusive."
Mr. Struever recalled showing Mr. Gjerde and his sons a jazz club at the corner of Preston and Cathedral streets that had been known earlier as Ethel's Place, named after singer Ethel Ennis.
"There were a few beers left in a refrigerator and we opened them up and had a deal," he said of that meeting. In October 1991, Spike & Charlie's Restaurant and Wine Bar opened there.
"My father became a familiar presence there and fulfilled many roles in the wild and woolly first years of the restaurant," said Spike Gjerde. "He applied his management experience to both financial and operational sides of the business."
After about 18 months, another member of the Gjerde family came to work. Alice Gjerde had retired from her job teaching elementary school in Baltimore County.
"The restaurant became a true family venture, with Alice at the door, Charlie in the dining room, Dave minding the books and I was in the kitchen," Spike Gjerde said. "He also managed to attend countless wine tastings in the service of the restaurant's wine program and was a tireless enforcer of the precise 5-ounce pour for wines by the glass."
After several years, Spike & Charlie's became an established restaurant in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood. Mr. Gjerde and his wife cut back their roles in the business and traveled extensively, visiting Australia, Norway and Singapore.
"My father was also a freshwater fisherman and frequently ventured with his friends Jack Grewe and Lloyd Crawley as far away as Tasmania and Argentina," said Spike Gjerde.
The two brothers left the Mount Vernon location and opened other businesses. Spike Gjerde now owns Woodberry Kitchen. Charlie Gjerde owns and operates Alexander's Tavern, formerly Turkey Joe's, on South Broadway in Fells Point.
"He was always there to lend an ear if I needed some guidance," said Charlie Gjerde.
Mr. Gjerde also played games of cribbage with family and friends and spent time with his four grandchildren.
A life celebration will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at 8 Clipping Tree Lane in Cockeysville.
In addition to his sons and grandchildren, survivors include a sister, Carole Gauger of Iowa City, Iowa. His wife of 50 years died in 2011.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun