Donald B. Gilbert, 85, of La Crosse passed away Sunday, March 17, 2019, after a brave battle with Mesothelioma. Don was born to Lyle and Catherine (Stuber) Gilbert. Don was married to Anne for 62 years, and together they found joy in their family, daughters Carol Gilbert-Arozian (Matt) and Dawn Gilbert Muller and grandchildren Lauren and Daniel Muller.
After graduating from Aquinas High School in La Crosse, and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, Don received a graduate degree from American University of Washington DC. He proudly served his country and enjoyed the privilege to live all over the United States and travel the world through a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy, 1956 to 1986.
As a Naval Aviator, Don’s leadership roles included Commanding Officer of two flight squadrons (VA-83 and VA-174), Executive Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Independence, and Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL. He flew combat missions during the Vietnam war, and he earned multiple awards and citations during his naval career.
After retiring from the Navy, Don and Anne returned home to La Crosse where they helped care for relatives and volunteered at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. Don and Anne were often found cheering for Aquinas High School varsity sports teams, and together enjoyed vacations on European river cruises. Don lovingly cared for the family’s log cabin on the Robinson Creek in Jackson County. Don and his older brother, Bob, grew up at the Cabin, where their father Lyle taught the boys to fly fish and deer hunt, and their mother Catherine made frequent guests welcome. In turn, Don and Bob raised their children to appreciate the special charms of the family’s rustic place in the woods.
Above all, Don was known for being there for family and friends, a solid rock of support and encouragement. He lived by the credo, “Just persevere,” and regularly encouraged others to press on and to keep life’s many ups and downs in perspective.
Don was preceded in death by parents Lyle and Catherine, brother Bob, by Bob’s wife Patricia, and by his step father Cecil “Cec” Gordon, and step brother Gerald Gordon (Carol). Don is survived by his wife, daughters, and grandchildren, and sisters-in-law Marie Woychik (Ed), Rosemary Sosalla (Ben), Colette Sosalla (Adolph), Frances Smith (Jim) and Bill and Dorrie Stuber, and many nieces and nephews.
The family extends heartfelt thanks for the compassion and skill of the nurses of the Mayo Clinic Hospice team and doctor and nurses of Mayo Clinic Health System who guided family and comforted Don in his final months and days.
A funeral mass will be held at 11:00 AM, Saturday, March 30, 2019, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 130 Losey Boulevard in La Crosse, Wis., with Rev. Peter Raj officiating along with Msgr. Steve Kachel. Visitation will be held at the church from 10:00 AM until the time of service. A lunch reception will follow at the parish hall. Burial will take place at a later date at Barrancas National Cemetery, NAS Pensacola, FLA. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Blessed Sacrament Endowment Fund or the Aquinas High School Endowment Fund.