GENE GILSDORF, 1924-2013

Photos, research kept retiree busy


Gene Gilsdorf, a passionate photographer and genealogist, died Monday in Walbridge. He was 88.

Mr. Gilsdorf had several health issues, including prostate cancer and renal failure, his daughter, Suzanne Deal, said.

Retired for more than 30 years, he spent many years gathering information about Lake Township Cemetery for a book titled The History of Lake Township that was published in 1995. His son, Kenneth Gilsdorf, said his father always had a passionate interest in collecting stories and finding ancestral links.

“He’s always been big on genealogy,” Mr. Gilsdorf said, adding that the book was a better seller than originally anticipated. He said about 100 copies of the book were printed and "they all found owners.”

His father also wrote about two other cemeteries and took many photographs of cemetery entrances for the book. Information from the book was also made into a CD, which the Wood County Genealogical Society sells.

He also was a member of the Walbridge VFW Post 9963 and served as treasurer of the Lake Township Parks Friendship Committee.

“He just liked that type of thing. He worked on it for many weeks, many months, several years,” his son said.

Mr. Gilsdorf was born in Ottawa Lake, Mich., and graduated from Lake High School in 1942. Serving in the Army during World War II, he was stationed in Germany. He and the former Ethel Snyder were married in 1946.

Starting work as a clerk on the former Pennsylvania Railroad, he worked for other rail lines, including Penn Central and Conrail. Mr. Gilsdorf retired as an office manager in 1984.

But it was his passion for photography and research that never wavered throughout the years, Ms. Deal said. A few years ago, she scanned all of the information that he uncovered and uploaded it to an online ancestry Web site.

“I scanned everything,” she said. “I stayed up nights and nights and scanned everything that he ever researched.”

She said her father was “flabbergasted” once he saw all of the information. Ms. Deal said her father used Facebook, even at age 88, to reconnect with people. She said his death reminded her how much of an effect he had on influencing the hobby of both her and the younger Mr. Gilsdorf.

Surviving are his wife, Ethel; son, Kenneth Gilsdorf; daughters, Suzanne Deal and Kathleen Minning; sister, Ardis Schwind; and five grandchildren.

A showing for family and friends will take place at Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, 701 N. Main St., Walbridge, from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday. VFW Post 9963 will hold a small service at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at 10:30 a.m., at the funeral home.

The family requests tributes to the Lake Township Parks Friendship Committee, Hospice of Northwest Ohio, or the Wood County Genealogical Society.

Contact Kelly McLendon at:, 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.