Gary Gjerstad, 67, of Britt passed away Saturday, September 22, 2018 at Westview Care Center in Britt.
Funeral services for Gary Gjerstad will be held on Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 10:30 AM at First Lutheran Church, 70 5th Avenue North West in Britt with Pastor Willie Rosin and Pastor Robert Dodge officiating. Burial will follow at Evergreen Cemetery in Britt.
Visitation will be held on Friday, September 28, 2018 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM at Ewing Funeral Chapel, 178 Center Street West in Britt and will continue one hour prior to the funeral service at the church on Saturday.
Gary Lee Gjerstad was born January 2, 1951 to Robert and Frances (Hartzell) Gjerstad in Mason City.
Gary made his home at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, Iowa for 13 years. He lived another 5 years in Des Moines, and received training for a variety of jobs at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In 1974 Gary returned to Britt, Iowa.
In 1976, Gary moved to Fairmont, Minnesota where he began his career in professional music as organist with the Jack Schultz Orchestra, touring the ballrooms of the Midwest, Texas and Arizona for 25 years. During his time in Fairmont, Gary was a member of the Lions Club where he served as President from July 1979 through July 1980, followed by a year as Secretary. Gary was a member of the Fairmont United Methodist Church, playing piano for services. Gary also aided in the establishment of the Dollars for Scholars High School Scholarship while living in Fairmont.
In October of 2001, Gary moved to Mesa, Arizona where he made his home for 14 years. In Mesa, Gary was active in the Apache Junction Lions Club, where he served 2 terms as President and was an associate member of the Mesa Host Lions Club. Gary was a member of Rock Church International, a non-denominational church where he played keyboard with the praise and worship team. From 2003-2009 Gary worked for Eagle Aerie Charter School where he assisted with the music program and helped with the Christmas Concert. In 2009 Eagle Aerie became the American Leadership Academy and Gary continued to work and volunteer at both the Gilbert and Mesa locations until 2015.
In 2013, Gary performed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “God Bless America” at an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. He was also asked to perform “God Bless America” alongside the Arizona State University marching band in 2013.
Gary made many friends during the time he was in Arizona. He was a regular visitor alongside his friend Keith Hackney as they attended Arizona State University Football practices and games. Among his closest friends were former ASU Football Coach Todd Graham, Assistant AD Mark Brands and Tim Cassidy Senior Associate AD, Football Operations.
Gary returned to Britt in November of 2015, moving into the Summit House Assisted Living in December of 2017 and Westview Care Center in August of 2018. Gary was a member of the Britt Lions Club and served as President and Secretary in 2017 & 2018. Gary was also a member of the River City Barbershop Chorus and was presented with the Prestigious Barbershopper of Distinction Award in 2018.
Gary felt very welcomed back in Britt, having lived in larger communities for many years. This was especially apparent at the various churches in the area who welcomed him to come and share his musical talent with them and by the students and faculty of West Hancock. Gary enjoyed getting to know and work alongside many of the students with their service projects, through the music program, and as color commentator on local radio KHAM for the West Hancock basketball program. In 2016 Gary was selected by the basketball team as the Fan of the Game and was presented this award at the Iowa State Basketball Tournament in Des Moines. One of his proudest moments was when he was asked to speak during West Hancock’s commencement ceremony in 2017. One of his favorite activities was when he could sit with young school children and read his braille books to them.
Gary was a master of email and he loved the technology that allowed him to communicate with all of his family, friends and acquaintances far away. He rekindled his love of the Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Twins, and Minnesota Vikings upon his return to Iowa. He enjoyed activities with family and the opportunity to share in some “Britt Water.”
Gary wanted to be remembered by his family and friends for who he was, for how much he loved them, and for their good times together. Gary’s quote “God has given me the skills to serve, to impart His blessing, and to always be grateful and to glorify Him” exemplified how he lived every day of his life.
Left to cherish Gary’s memory are his brothers Ron (Cindy) Gjerstad of Jackson, Missouri and Curt (Kristi) Gast of Britt; nieces and nephews Garrett & Marianne Gjerstad of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Kelsey & John Koenig and family from St. Charles, Missouri, Heather & Mike Francis and family from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Brent & Tara Gast and family from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Ashley & Chris Hejlik and family from Altoona, Iowa, and LCpl Robert Goerish, USMC – San Diego, California, along with other members of his extended family and many special friends.
Gary is preceded in death by his parents, Robert Gjerstad and Frances Gjerstad-Gast, grandparents and many aunts and uncles.
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