Gerald W. Gilgenbach, a longtime Jeep supervisor who was an Army veteran of World War II and a past commander of the VFW Department of Ohio, died Friday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 86 and had congestive heart failure.
He grew up on a Putnam County farm near New Bavaria, Ohio, and was a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post there. He also held leadership posts at the state level starting in the mid-1960s. He was statewide commander in 1972-73 and during his term was named to the national VFW team of all-Americans.
“He would tell you the truth,” said Dave Fackler, a friend and a past commander of the Maumee VFW post. “He was a man who lived by the book.”
He later was chairman of the Ohio VFW’s welfare and service committee and finance committee. He received the James Romanis Award for his dedication to veterans.
He was a member of the Military Order of the Cootie, an honor degree of the VFW, and was a past Ohio Cootie of the Year, said Mr. Fackler, a past grand commander of Ohio Cooties.
“The veterans’ organizations are a brotherhood,” he said. “If you’ve ever been in combat with your brothers, you never lose that camaraderie.”
John Gilgenbach, a nephew, said: “I think his blood was red, white, and blue.”
Mr. Gilgenbach was on the VFW national council and the national Americanism committee. From 1959 to 2012, he paid annual visits to the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Mich.
A longtime West Toledo resident, Mr. Gilgenbach retired in 1982 as a press division supervisor at Jeep, then owned by the former American Motors Corp. In 1973, AMC Chairman Roy Chapin presented Mr. Gilgenbach with one of five company distinguished service awards.
He was born Jan. 27, 1926, to Agnes and Phillip Gilgenbach and was a graduate of Miller City High School. He served in Europe with the 69th Infantry Division. In 2004, he went to the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington with the Conn-Weissenberger American Legion post. He told The Blade, “I said I’d be here if I had to crawl.”
He was a member of the former St. Agnes Church.
He and his wife, Helen Bernice “Bea” Gilgenbach, married June 26, 1954. She died April 20, 2003.
Surviving is his sister, Lucille Johnston.
Services are to be at 10 a.m. today in St. Catherine of Siena Church.
The family suggests tributes to VFW Operation Uplink or the Ohio VFW’s cancer fund.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.