Our beloved, John, crossed over into the blessed peace of eternal life on July 7, 2020, to join his father and all our loved ones who have gone before us. He was much loved and will be greatly missed.
John was born in Sheboygan on June 26, 1969, bringing happiness to his parents, Wayne, and Lori (Strahl) Gilbertson and to the delight of his big sister, Katie. He was a healthy boy who was born with dyslexia, something he struggled with his entire life. Not much was known about dyslexia at the time, except that it caused serious learning and related self-image problems. John was forever thankful to two caring educators in elementary school, Paul Wagner, and Al (“Grizz”) Calabrese, who helped him develop coping skills.
Nevertheless, dyslexia led to anxiety issues at a young age, which also turned into depression as he grew older. He battled these problems throughout his life. He tried counseling and medications for his anxiety and depression several times, but qualified counselors are scarce, timely appointments hard to get and medications are “trial and error” at best. Some people find what they need—some do not. Failing to find the help he needed, John turned more and more to alcohol. Unfortunately, this story is told all too often in obituaries and among many members of not only our community, but in the entire United States.
John graduated from South High School in 1987. He was a diver on the swimming and diving team, which he enjoyed. He credited his diving coach, Tyler Schaefer, with giving him a more positive, God-loving outlook on life, and to try to do the best he could at whatever he did. Tyler and John remained lifelong friends; in fact, John’s son, Tyler, is named after the coach.
After high school, John attended LTC, became an Auto Body Technician and restored several cars, including two for his mom and one for his sister. He worked at Wigwam as a Knitting Machine Mechanic for a few years, then went to Vollrath where he became a Journeyman Tool and Die Maker. After Vollrath, most of his work life (over 15 years) was spent at Harley-Davidson, as a Tool and Die Maker. They sent him all over the U.S. for additional training and to work at many rallies as well. When his plant closed several years ago, he worked at H.T.T. for a brief time; then spent a year at American Orthodontics. Harley recalled him and he went back for a time, but so many things had changed in the interim that he found the working atmosphere intolerable; so, he quit his job and joined his last employer, Millennium Technologies in Plymouth.
Most people who knew John did not know about his struggles. They tell us they remember his big smiles and happy attitude, his big, soft heart, willingness to help anyone and someone who valued friendship. John dearly loved his family and friends. He loved family times, but his most happy times were spent with the “light of his life,” his son Tyler. Over the years, they spent endless hours at the family cottage at Lake Ellen swimming, boating, kayaking, snorkeling, and enjoying the “scooters,” which were a birthday present for Tyler last summer. Together, they also enjoyed working on Ty’s dirt bike, motorcycling, and target shooting.
John is survived by his son, Tyler; Tyler’s mother, John’s ex-wife, Nicole; mother, Lori Gilbertson; sister, Katie (Keith) Anderson; niece, Saige Ramos (fiancé Levi Joosse); nephew, McKena Ramos (partner Jordan Saunders); step-nephew, Parker Anderson; step-niece, Ashley Anderson; and many loving family members and friends, locally, and all around the U.S. He was preceded in death by his father, Wayne Gilbertson, his grandparents, Mary and Ralph Gilbertson, Sr. and Florence and James Howard Strahl, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
John faced death with courage. His favorite prayer was the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
The family wants to thank the staff in the transplant I.C.U. at Froedtert Hospital for their caring and tireless efforts to save John’s life. John had signed a power of attorney which provided that all life-sustaining measures be discontinued if his life could not be saved, so he was admitted to the wonderful care in the Comfort Care and Hospice Unit at Froedtert, where he died.
According to John’s wishes, he has been cremated and there will be no funeral. Due to COVID-19, a celebration of his life will take place at a future date, when possible. Memorial funds may be made payable to Loretta Gilbertson and sent to the funeral home as well as condolences. Reinbold-Novak Funeral Home, 1535 S. 12th Street, Sheboygan, WI 53081
Rest in peace, John. We will always love and remember you, your laughter, and your charm.