Max Gernhard

Obituary of Max Frederick Gernhard

On Saturday, April 6, the world lost one of its most compassionate, kind, gentle, and funny souls, our fiancé, brother, son, cousin, uncle, and friend, Max Frederick Gernhard, at the age of 29.  Max left behind many, many heartbroken friends and family members.  He is very loved.


From an early age, Max had an electric personality with a smile that could light up a room.  He was fascinated with “big trucks” and could name every piece of construction equipment before the age of one, as well as every NFL team by looking at just their helmets. Above all, he loved his sister Samantha (Sammi, for many years) and always looked out for her and included her in everything he did – whether constructing “armor” from paper and tape, inventing beanie baby adventures, rollerblading at the skate park (with mom Eileen and dad Tim, too!), or going to Monster Truck shows.  He loved living in the Fairfax Villa neighborhood in Fairfax, VA, where we would take walks on the “big path” and enjoy the quietness of nature, and, if we were lucky, run into friends.  He also was a proud Villa Gorilla (the swim team that was “second to none”!), as was Sammi; loved basketball (coached by dad) and Little League (coached by dad and “Mr. Elliot”); snowboarding and skiing at Killington and Tahoe with dad, mom, Sammi, and aunts/uncles/cousins; and, most of all, hanging out with his school friends, many of whom remain friends for life.  Max was typically the life of the party at that time, with an irresistible smile and twinkle in his eye (and those cheeks!), and endless creative ideas on how to entertain everyone.


Even after moving to Oakton, Virginia, in 6th grade, Max kept in touch with his Villa friends and expanded his friend group.  His passion for music intensified as his Papa Salathé taught him chords on the guitar and he continued with trumpet and piano lessons.  He was always composing music and beats in his head, with his fingers drumming nonstop to the beat.  In addition to starting his journey as an avid – and world-renowned! -- gamer (World of Warcraft and League of Legends), he gained a new passion:  running.  In his first year at Oakton High School, he bonded tightly with his Coach Phil Tiller and his cross-country and track teammates and continued to spread his special sunshine to the whole team.  We heard from so many families that Max would encourage the newer, slower teammates to do their best, and congratulated enthusiastically anyone who beat their prior times – even if they were much slower.

In Max’s 10th grade year, we moved to Indiana, and Max quickly joined his high school cross country and track teams, and pushed himself to be “the best”, at times pushing himself too hard to the detriment of his mental and physical health.  While he achieved remarkable times on the XC and track courses, he struggled with anorexia and OCD, and his body began fighting back.  Despite interest from college XC coaches, Max ultimately chose to become a recreational runner, and attended both IUPUI and Ball State, where many new friends were drawn to his endearing – and hilarious – personality. Max was still the life of the party, expected to do the unexpected, at one point a “wedding crasher” with his friend Jordan, and creating stories for years to come on his 21st birthday trip to Vegas with mom Eileen and friends Ryan and Levi.  The one thread throughout was the importance of family to Max – his parents and Sammi were everything to him, and he adored his aunts, uncles, and cousins.  From an early age, Max always felt for the underdog and lived his life vigilant to others who might be hurting.  During college spring break in Florida, he stepped in to protect a woman being assaulted by her boyfriend, with no care for his own safety.  That action was quintessential Max.


In his 20s, Max became a homeowner in Lebanon, Indiana, and focused on his greatest passions – music, gaming, and ultimately his fiancée Alexandra Mee (Lexi aka “Cake”).  He constantly composed and produced his own music (many pieces posted on SoundCloud) and, with his friend Josh and Lexi, he performed in backyard concerts featuring their original music, a blend of jazz and metal.  His WoW handle, “ChipSkylark”, was revered by many gamers – so much so that at one time a Stanley Steemer employee recognized his picture on the wall of his mom’s house and said, “Is that Chip Skylark?  How do you know him?  He is amazing!”  We let him know that yes, indeed, Max is amazing, both as a human and a gamer.


While Max was working at the local school system, he was browsing dating apps and came across Lexi’s profile. She had on her profile that she was looking for someone to play WoW with, and that was all it took. They matched during the 2020 COVID restrictions, so it was difficult to arrange a date in-person, but that hardly mattered. From that very night, and for a month and a half after they spent every day in Azeroth into the wee hours of dawn forming a friendship that would blossom into the love of their lives. Finally, lockdown restrictions began to loosen and they planned their first official date - a hike on The Big Four trail. The date was spectacular, but there was one issue looming, rain clouds. She tried to warn him as they were walking but he insisted they would have time. To no surprise, they were rained on at the 1.5 mile marker and power walked back to the cars.


It wasn’t long before they both knew they were falling in love. Lexi moved in by early January 2021 and built a life with Max that was full of joy, laughter, and pet hair. Countless precious nights together spent playing video games side by side. Their love was so honest and fun they were always yelling out jokes randomly, writing goofy songs about the animals, and making up silly beatboxing. With Max’s joyful energy there was no such thing as a mundane task.


Max decided to pop the question on November 9th, 2022. He took Lexi back to the Big Four Trail and stopped at the very mile marker they turned back at on the first date. He had planned for Josh to be hiding in the bushes decked in a ghillie suit to record the moment. With a resounding “YES!!”, they started planning the rest of their lives. Max became very close with his future family in-law, especially Lexi’s brothers, John and Mason. They had already taken to calling him “Big Brother” before Max had even proposed. The elopement was planned for April 20th, 2024.  Max and Lexi’s mantra was “We do hard things together.” when faced with any difficult situation.


Max had just finished working with his dad and very supportive colleagues at the school and was really excited about his new job driving a dump truck (his childhood fascination!) for bonus dad Phil, and awaiting the next home-cooked meal from bonus mom Jackie (third helpings, anyone?).   He was looking forward to getting on his Harley this spring with his brother-in-law Charlie, his sister Samantha, and his mom and dad – he loved the feel of the wind and enjoyed a nice ride to Nashville, IN, in the fall.  Max recently had a bachelor party full of laughs and fun (go-carts! pizza!) in anticipation of his April 20 elopement to Pigeon Forge, TN, where they planned many adventures.  We all were looking forward to a fun and exciting future with a cute little ginger baby running around in the next year.  We will never have the world as it was before April 6 back again.


Max left behind many devastated family members, friends, and beloved pets, including: fiancée Alexandra Mee and their fur-family of corgi Eevee (who misses her daddy), and “kitties” Gnar, Stormy, Nyx, and Glizzie; mom Eileen Hollcraft (Phil) and bonus siblings Kenneth, Patrick (Soronah and their son Wayne Oliver), and Courtney; dad Timothy Gernhard (Jackie) and bonus siblings Emma, Matt, Stefan, and Elijah; BFF and sister Samantha (Gernhard) Clark (Charlie), and their children, 3-month-old niece Diana Eileen Clark (to whom he planned to be the greatest Uncle Silly ever) and bonus niece Dylan and nephew David; Grandpa Frederick Gernhard of Lyme, NH (late Grammie Irene Gernhard) and Nana Diane Salathé of Indianapolis (late Papa Philip Frederick Salathé); his beloved Aunt Silly (Elise Salathé Lau) and her husband Will, and his BFF cousins Mitchell and Nicholas; his treasured Aunt Greta Salathé Mills and her husband Ernie, and his supportive cousins Ursula and Elias; his musical Uncle Philip Salathé (Kate) and little cousin Romana (Romy); his caring Uncle Peter Salathé, with whom he enjoyed many a jam session; his Uncle Christopher Gernhard (Serena) and special cousins Nicholas and Nathan, with whom he shared a birthday; Uncle Douglas Gernhard (Jennifer) and cousins Carolyn, David, and Adam, who provided endless fun on NH trips; Uncle Jerry Gernhard and cousins Tucker, Jordan, Jacob, and Sophie, his buddies in Virginia; as well as countless friends and co-workers.  Max always brought the best out of people and every life he touched was left with a smile and a good feeling; in past days, several have referred to Max as a “gentle soul”, and nothing could be more true.


Max’s Celebration of Life will be from 2 pm to 4 pm on Saturday, April 27, at Eagle’s Hideway, 8901 W. 65th Street, Indianapolis IN; in true Max fashion, there will be pizza and breadsticks for all.


In lieu of flowers, his family and Lexi would love to honor his passions (running and nature) by dedicating memorial benches to him at his two favorite nature spots:  Eagle Creek and Memorial Park.  Max spent many hours at Eagle Creek running with his dad (and doing triathlons with dad and bonus sister Emma), walking with mom, and just enjoying nature.  More recently, Max spent many days running and walking Eevee with Lexi at Memorial Park in Lebanon, Indiana.  Contributions to those efforts can be made by Venmo to GSMills12495, which was established by Aunt Greta as Max’s Memorial Fund.  Donations in Max’s name could also be made to the non-profit Peace of Mind foundation, part of the International OCD Foundation ( or any suicide prevention non-profit.


Max/Maxi/Maximus/Maxter/Maxipoodle/Kellerwing/ChipSkylark, we love you forever and always.

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