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Larry Merritt Gilbertson

May 10, 2023 | 10 comments

Larry Merritt Gilbertson passed away peacefully on May 5th, 2023, at his home in Galesville, Wisconsin.  Larry was born to Merritt and Irene (Huebner) Gilbertson on January 14th, 1948, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Sparta, WI.

Larry served as a United States Air Force medic during the Vietnam-Era war.  He was very honored and humbled to provide frontline, emergency medical care and assistance in the event of an incident.   Following an honorable discharge from the service, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree, and subsequently, a Master of Science in public health education from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.

Larry enjoyed an over 35-year successful career in public health beginning at the City of Milwaukee Health Department, followed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and lastly, retiring from the (CDC) Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.  Larry was a well-respected leader and gained many friendships throughout his career.  His leadership skills and mentorship were something to be admired.

Larry loved his time outdoors and loved to travel.    Larry was meticulous about planning trips and preparing to ensure everyone would get the full experience site seeing.  He especially loved his time camping at Lake Holcombe, Wisconsin where he gained several lasting relationships.

Larry was also an exceptional athlete.  He ran in several half marathons as well as marathons, among other races.   He exceled in every sport and also brought the passion of sports to his children who were all athletes at a very young age.  He was always their number one supporter and biggest fan.  The “lucky number 13” was his favorite number and became a family tradition for all.    Larry loved playing softball and spent many years playing for the Camaraderie bar in Eau Claire.  This team consisted of many “father/son” duos which made the experience more special.    The Green Bay Packers as well as Milwaukee Brewers were always a favorite.   It was not uncommon to see Larry cheering for his teams with a cold beer yelling at the referees from his couch when a play was not favorable.

Throughout Larry’s education, he grew to love history and often traveled throughout his career.    One destination that was special to Larry for many reasons was Washington DC.   He was also determined to take his kids, as well as grandkids to this iconic destination and loved to educate them on the many historic sites to include monuments, the White House, the Capitol, Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the Smithsonian Museum, among other tourist attractions.   It was very important to him to share this experience and education with those he loved.   Sadly, he was not able to fulfill this with all the grandkids but left strict instructions for them to go in the future.   We know he will be there in spirit.

Larry is survived by his loving wife, Sherri Madison, his children and grandchildren, Shayna Gilbertson (Nick Smaby), and Cashton, Reese and Kennedy of Holmen; Seth Gilbertson (Sarah), and Hailey and Luke of Eau Claire; Chad Manske, (Kris), and Cameron, Conrad, and Amarah of Minneapolis.   Additional survivors include sister Joyce Garves, (Howard) of Sparta and several nieces and nephews, as well as cousins.

Larry will be remembered for his intelligence, his ability to remain calm even in the most difficult times, his will to live when he became ill, his love for “spicy” bloody Mary’s and his famous potato salad.  Even at the end of life, Larry was full of wit and sense of humor as many had loved about him.

Larry was proceeded in death by his parents, Merritt and Irene Gilbertson.

Coulee Region Cremation Group is handling the arrangements.   A Celebration of life is planned for the near future.



  1. Josh and Jess Adams

    I’m so sorry for your loss Seth, Sarah and family. We love you guys very much and thinking of you during these hard times.

  2. Allan and Karen Hansen

    Condolences go out to Larry’s family. We are sorry for your loss. We were happy Larry contacted us to join in the cousin picnic last year. Being from Florida we were not aware this picnic took place every year. It was good to renew family relationships and we have Larry to thank for that. He will be missed.

    • Ann and Terry Johnson

      Shayna, Nick, Seth,Sarah and grandkids, Terry and I are so sorry for this loss in your lives. Larry was a great guy, and his spirit will always be with you. We love you all.

  3. John Haag

    Thank you Larry for your love and leadership when you were my supervisor at the Division of Public Health in Eau Claire. I have many pleasant memories from that time.
    My condolences to the family.

  4. Renee

    Seth (Sarah) Shayna (Nick), Nancy (Mother to Seth and Shayna), and all of his grandchildren who he loved and adored. I send you all my love and pray all your good memories will help you during this time. Larry was an amazing man and cared for all of you deeply. He was one hell of a good father and grandpa. Sending my love to all of you during this hard time. ~ Renee

  5. Eric Thomas

    Larry and I were 1966 graduates of Sparta High School & Football team mates for the Sparta High School Spartans. Larry was very smart, a great team mate, and a first class person. I sure he will be missed by all who knew him.

  6. James Kaplanek

    I’m very sorry for your loss. I had a lot of respect for Larry. As a program manager at DHS, Larry shared with me his secret to success. He said, ” Be the first the arrive and the last to leave”, I practice that guidance to this day. Larry you will be missed.

  7. James Mack & Family

    Though I did not know Larry very well, his reputation as a leader in public health was well-known and he was widely respected. Our condolences to the family.

  8. William Otto

    It is difficult to believe someone as dynamic and full of life as Larry has left this life. Our deepest condolences to his family during this difficult time.
    I have known Larry for most of my 35 years with the Division of Public Health. I consider him a friend. He was extremely knowledgeable of all aspects of public health. Through his work and guidance he helped make this state a better place to live. And he did it with humor and humility. Larry had so many friends! They are all feeling a sense of loss at this time. God bless you Larry!
    Bill and Terri Otto

  9. Dennis Hibray

    I am sorry to learn about Larry’s passing. Larry and I go back to 1985 when we were both hired as Regional Directors… a newly created position by the Division of Health. Larry and I (as well as the rest of the Regional Directors) had many good times working and having fun improving public health in our selected region and throughout the state. Larry was a great asset to our team, to WI and to CDC. He was taken to young and will be missed.


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