133 Mason St., Onalaska, WI • Call (608) 788-2188


Gary L. Willhite

September 11, 2020 | 7 comments

Gary L. Willhite, 67, of Holmen, WI, passed away on September 5, 2020 at Gundersen Medical Center in La Crosse, WI.

Visitation, will be 5-7 p.m. on Friday, September 18, 2020 at The Gathering Place at Coulee Region Cremation Group, 133 Mason Street, Onalaska, WI 54650.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at Coulee Region Cremation Group Chapel with Kevin Bonnar of First Free Church officiating. Arrangements are being made by Coulee Region Cremation Group.

Gary was born at Porter’s Hospital, in Denver, CO to Kenneth and Martha Willhite on January 16, 1953. He attended school in Littleton, CO. He married Kathy/Katie/KT on May 26, 1990 in Marion, Kansas. He graduated from Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC., Wichita State University, Wichita KS, where he took extensive coursework from Cambridge University, in Cambridge, England. Finally, he completed his terminal degree at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. He taught, and was a Curriculum Director in several K-12 schools. While and after earning his Ph.D., Gary became faculty at several universities and colleges. Some of which are: Kansas State University (KS), Lewis Clark State College (ID), University of Idaho (ID), Southern Illinois University (IL) and University of Wisconsin- La Crosse (WI). His career in education encompassed 41 years.

At the age of 16, Gary earned enough money that his parents allowed him to begin his international travel to Switzerland on a ski trip with his Ski Club. That was only the beginning. Our last international junket was to have taken place during June of 2020 to Helsinki and Prague, unfortunately COVID interrupted that trip.

Gary is preceded in death by his parents, Kenneth and Martha Willhite (CO) and father-in-law, Garry Thomas (NE).

Gary is survived by his wife Katie (Holmen, WI) his seven sons and families: Troels and Charlotte (Denmark), Carlos (Paraguay), Niklas and Daria (Finland), Tormod (Ireland), Steinar (Luxemborg), Adrian and Isabella (Sweden), Zachariah (Holmen, WI), two daughters, Hailey (Onalaska, WI) and Katelynn (IA), brother, David and Hilda (IL), and brother-in-law, Robert (NE), mother-in-law, Beverly Thomas (NE). Finally, he is also survived by several grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

The family of Gary L. Willhite wishes to extend our sincere thanks to Pastor Kevin Bonnar and our UWL family.



  1. Terry A Langteau

    So sorry to hear the news about Gary. KT and family may you feel God’s love and presence during this difficult time. I knew Gary and you, also KT, when I worked in the School of Education Office. I left that office around 2012 and went and worked in other departments. I retired from UWL in January of 2014. Will be lifting you and your family up in prayer during this time.

  2. Carlos Zandoná

    My Dad Gary,
    I am gonna miss you. I will never forget what I have learned during the time I spent with you. Tought me things in one year that I have never learned in 17 living in Paraguay. Will miss you , but I know that one day we will still meet.
    Love you ,

  3. Nese Nasif

    Gary, thank you for making me feel welcome and heard during the past two years on my first UWL faculty senate committee. Your inclusive leadership style and mentoring made me feel comfortable to speak in a group where I was generally the most junior ranking member. I will miss you. There should be more leaders like you.

  4. Niklas Forsell

    Dad Gary,

    you are a person I can sit comfortably next to completely quiet. You are a person that understands me even if you disagree. You are a person that knows what I mean even if I don’t always know what I mean. You Gary thought me more than you know, and all without teaching me.

    You Gary ain’t gone nowhere, you just ain’t here anymore.

    Love you always,
    Niklas, Daria and Elton

  5. Leslie Rogers

    Gary had such a significant impact on my teaching at UWL. and will be sorely missed. I will miss him popping into my office to talk about his passion for professional development schools and his stories about his work with in-service educators. He was passionate about making people think critically and act confidently! A student shared the following with me, “Wilhite really was wonderful. He set realistic expectations and never let us neglect our potential. While teaching, he challenged us to think like future educators…. “If you were a teacher facing this, what would you do? How would you do it?” He put us in the mindset to properly contemplate what “teaching” and “education” really means to us as individuals. It’s one thing to TALK about the qualities of a good teacher and how to become one, but instead he SHOWED us.Overall, Dr. Wilhite’s goal was to make an impact in the classroom, and he certainly did.”

    He will be missed by many.

    • Rhonda McGowan

      Gary made my classroom a better place and always had the student’s best interests
      On his radar. Rest in Peace Gary.

  6. Jamelyn Tobery-Nystrom

    To the family of Gary

    My name is Jamey Nystrom and I was fortunate to meet Gary through the Association of Teacher Educators. We participated in early August on a virtual presentation concerning teacher educator standards. Gary was a great partner and I really enjoyed the time spent working with him this past summer on our presentation. I am sorry to hear of his passing and send peace and love to you, his family.


Let's Celebrate Life Together

Call or send a message using the buttons below...
Call (608) 788-2188Send a Message