Gertrude Maria Shatas, 91, of Sunny Hills, FL and formerly of Huntsville, AL, passed peacefully on Sunday surrounded by the Vestiarki Sisters of Jesus and family.
Gertrude is survived by her daughter, Angela (Adrian), three grandchildren, Kristina, Luke and Paul, of Chapel Hill, NC, son Remigius (Sue) of Huntsville, AL, granddaughter Mandy Shatas Nelson (Mike) and three great-grandchildren Melody, Marshall and Marisa of Huntsville, AL, granddaughter Lara Shatas Lenard (Casey) of Birmingham, AL, son Steven (Meiying) and granddaughter Sophia of Saratoga, CA, son Thomas, and grandson Alex, of Sunny Hills, FL, grandson Michael Cairns of England, brother Tadeusz Gawlas, and nieces Monica and Stephanie, of Canada, brother Klemens Gawlas and nieces and nephew Beata, Brygida and Jurek, of Poland, and nephew Michael Gawlas of Australia. She is predeceased by her beloved husband, Romas; son, George; sister, Elzbieta; and brother, Johannes.
Gertrude was born in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, the oldest child of Jozef and Elzbieta (Krywult) Gawlas. In her early years, she lived through war and Nazi occupation, during which her close family was torn asunder. At 19, to escape an imminent Soviet invasion, she fled through snow and bombing runs with her youngest brother in tow to Tübingen, Germany, where she found employment with the United Nations Relief Organization (UNRA). She met and married Romualdas (Romas), a university student who fled the Soviet invasion of the Republic of Lithuania. With the help of the Red Cross, she located her family, and, when her brother Tadeusz was released from a Soviet gulag, she helped him make his way to Germany and then Canada.
In 1950, Gertrude immigrated with husband and two infant sons to the U.S. She supported Romas’s career as a physicist and they settled in Hunstville AL, where Romas was employed by the Army at Redstone Arsenal. Gertrude and Romas retired to Sunny Hills in 1987 and they found joy and fellowship in the small Polish-Lithuanian community centered on St. Theresa's Catholic Church. After Romas’s death, and as her health declined, Gertrude was cared for by the loving Vestiarki Sisters of Jesus.
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Gertrude embraced life in the U.S. but never forgot her family or homeland behind the Iron Curtain and aided them throughout her life. Gertrude was a devout Catholic, dedicated to home and family, and always ready to help others in need. Her family cherishes memories of her storytelling, gourmet Austrian dinners and many beautiful houseplants.
Funeral arrangements were through Brown Funeral Home, with visitation and rosary on Saturday, August 30, 2014 at St. Theresa's, followed by Mass, interment in the family plot in Calvary Cementary, and a luncheon reception. Cards may be sent to 3919 Vistula Dr., Sunny Hills, FL, 32428. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to St. Theresa's, 2056 Sunny Hills Blvd., Sunny Hills, FL, 32428.