Former Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Wichita dies

Eugene J. Gerber, Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, died Saturday at Via Christi-St. Francis, a hospital official said.

Gerber, 87, had a heart attack while driving Wednesday evening and crashed near I-135 and 13th Street in Wichita, said Matt Vainer, a diocese spokesman. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition Wednesday night.

An investigation determined Gerber was driving a 2018 Toyota Highlander and exited northbound I-135 at 13th Street, where the SUV left the road, struck a bridge pillar and then struck a barrier wall, Wichita Police Officer Charley Davidson said.

He died at 11:15 a.m. on Satuday, according to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. He was surrounded by family at the time of his death, a statement from the church said.

David J. Lies, diocesan vicar general in Wichita, announced Gerber’s death Saturday.

“We give thanks to God for the blessing that his life and his ministry as Shepard of the Church have brought so many of us,” Lies said in a written statement. “With Christian hope we entrust Bishop to the care of our heavenly Father and pray that he is welcomed with the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Gerber was born in Kingman County in 1931 and was a native of St. Louis parish. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita in 1959 and appointed Bishop of Dodge City in 1976 before he returned to Wichita.

Gerber served as the eighth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita from 1983 to 2001. He remained active in various organizations and ministries within the Church.

One of his last acts as bishop was to help feed the hungry in Wichita. In 2001, he was instrumental in opening the Lord’s Diner at Central and Broadway, which offers a free evening meal to anyone in need and is still active 17 years later.

Details of Gerber’s funeral will be announced after consultation with his family.

Chance Swaim: 316-269-6752, @byChanceSwaim
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