Doris Juanita Hurst Gerst was born in Harlem Hospital, New York, New York, to Lemuel Paxton Hurst and Louise Hamilton Hurst. At an early age, Doris went to live with her godparents, Lemuel Spaulding and Martha Spaulding, in Durham, North Carolina. At age seven, Doris’ father took her to Suffolk, Virginia, where she lived with grandparents, William and Annie Hurst, and sister, Pearl Greta Hurst. Doris attended Andrew J. Brown grade school and graduated in 1947 from Booker T. Washington High School. During her high school years, she participated in many activities, including Varsity basketball. Although being five feet two inches tall, she played guard and center for the team. She was a pretty good basketball player.
Doris attended Hampton Institute (University), where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Home Economics Education. This degree came in handy as she was able to gain employment as a domestic and later to teach her own children and several others how to cook and sew. At Hampton, Doris was a member of the Phyllis Wheatley Society and crowned as a member of the R.O.T.C. Royal Court. While there, she met and fell in love with her true love, soul mate, best friend, Cadet Captain Wilbur L. Gerst. They married on February 6, 1954, in Suffolk, Virginia. Their union produced three children, Lisa Sabrina, Steven Anthony, and Paula Marie.
In the summer of 1955, Doris and Wilbur moved to Rochester, New York. Doris became employed by the New York State Department of Employment Services and then worked for the Monroe County Department of Social Services as an Intake Social Worker. She later became the Director of the Pre-School Program at Genesee Settlement House. In this role, she taught three, four, and five-year-old children. She also managed and trained future pre-school teachers. Doris continued her education, earning a Master of Science Degree in Educational Administration from the State University of New York College at Brockport; Graduate Study Certification in Special Education from the University of Rochester; and Graduate Study Certification in Elementary Education from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Doris worked for the Rochester City School District for several years, both as a teacher and administrator. During her tenure with the “district,” she taught special education. She became the Project Supervisor for her much-beloved Operation Home Base Program, teaching early childhood education and training parents to become paraprofessionals. She was the Assistant Director of the Combined Early Childhood Program, Human Relations Specialist for Secondary Placement, Magnet School Planner, and her favorite role, Kindergarten Teacher.
Doris was reared in a God-fearing home and was baptized in 1943 at First Baptist Church, Suffolk, Virginia. As a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, she believed in prayer and putting God first in ALL things. In 1956 she joined Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Rochester, New York. In 1959, she and Wilbur left Mt. Olivet for six years to attend First Presbyterian Church participating in an outreach program to break down racial boundaries and improve race relations during the Civil Rights era. In 1965 the family returned to Mt. Olivet, where she remained a faithful and active member. At Mt. Olivet, Doris taught Sunday School, was a member of the American Baptist Women’s Ministry, M.O.B.C. Women’s Ministry, the Couples Club, Summer Bash, Just Us Retirees (which she organized), and in 1967, she served as President of the Board of Christian Education. Under her leadership, new programs were initiated, such as Summer Fun (camp), the Nursery, and Healthy Heart. Under the leadership of Rev. Johnson, along with Mrs. Johnson, she chaired the first Family Christmas Program. Doris also participated in the Witness Fitness Program and the Arts and Crafts Group. She enjoyed her Bible Study class and any opportunity to fellowship with friends. Doris loved her church.
Doris was an active member of the local AARP group, Alzheimer’s Association, Urban League, and the N.A.A.C.P. She was a founding member of the Rochester Chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc. She served as Chairperson of Christian Education United Church Ministries. She also served on the boards of Community Child Care Center, DePaul Clinic, and YWCA. she worked with Easter Seals in Rochester and supported various cancer foundations. Doris enjoyed fellowship with her book club and the investment group. Her professional affiliations included: the Rochester Association of Early Childhood Education, National Association of Early Childhood Education, Rochester Teacher’s Association, and Hampton Institute Alumni Association.
Doris loved to read, shop, sew, chat, socialize with friends, and travel. She loved her chocolates, candy, glazed doughnut, and McDonald’s custard swirl ice cream. She was blessed to travel all over the United States, as far as Hawaii and to several other countries with her family. Also, she loved the large Hurst, Gerst, and Davis family gatherings and celebrations.
Doris is predeceased by her parents Lemuel and Louise Hurst, her husband of 49 years, Wilbur L. Gerst, sister, Pearl Greta Hurst Davis, grandparents, uncles, and aunts. She is survived by her children Lisa S. Gerst, Steven A. Gerst, Paula M. Gerst-Applewhite (Wayne), one grandson Lafayette B. Gerst (Whitney), two great granddaughters, McKenzie C. Gerst, McKaela S. Gerst, sister, Geraldine Poindexter, brother-in-law Lawrence Gerst, sister-in-law Joan Gerst, one aunt, Claire S. Hurst, one niece, Andrea Davis Zopp (Bill), three nephews, Mark A. Davis, Darrin S. Gerst (Cassandra), Victor A. Stewart, Jr., first cousins including Tazewell V. Hurst (Sarah), Evelyn Jones Lee (Robert), Lesley L. Hurst, L. Bradley Hurst, Anne Marie H. Hayes (Terrance), Cheryl H. Jaime (Stephen), two godchildren, Lauryn Wynn, and Herbert Thornton, Jr., two “adopted” daughters, Monica Jackson Bakou, Beverly Burrell Moore, her dearest and closest friends Mary Janet McElrath, Eleanor Bonner, G. Jewel Jones, first cousins including Tazewell V. Hurst (Sarah), Evelyn Jones Lee (Robert), Lesley L. Hurst, L. Bradley Hurst, Anne Marie H. Hayes (Terrance), Cheryl Hurst Jaime (Steve), a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, extended family, several cherished friends and her dearly loved church family.
A graveside inurnment service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Cedar Grove Cemetery. CDC protocols will be enforced with facial coverings and social distancing. Livestream will be available at the start of the service.
Doris will forever be remembered as a soft, kind, loving, loyal, steadfast, caring, giving, honest, considerate, meek, and humble soul who always stood firm in her convictions. She was an earthen angel, and now she has her wings. Rest in Heaven.
Professional services entrusted to the staff of Millard E. Latimer & Son Funeral Directors Inc., 983 S. Plymouth Ave., Rochester, New York and Whiting's Funeral Home, 7005 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185. 757-229-3011 whitingsfuneralhome.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Doris Juanita (Hurst) Gerst, please visit our floral store.