Gil was born on the Kopp family farm in Neillsville, Wisconsin on October 8, 1934, to Theodore “Ted” and Hattie Schwarze (Kopp), in the same room his mother was born in. Gil fondly recalled spending the next few years bringing home small fish for his mother to fry, spending time and helping with Grandma Kopp’s beautiful vegetable and flower gardens, and the many fun times he had fishing with his mom and dad.
As a licensed cheesemaker, Gil’s father’s skills were needed by cheese houses around Wisconsin and Illinois, and the family moved many times. Gil assisted in cheesemaking, and deliveries. When Gil was 11 his family welcomed his new baby sister, Judy. The family then settled down in Marshfield, Wisconsin and Gil went to school there through his high school years.
Gil’s father urged him not to “waste valuable time” with college and get right to work as a cheesemaker or trucker, but Gil’s friends saw his potential, and urged him on to university. Gil enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Stevens-Point and put himself through college. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1958, and his father was among the most proud.
In 1957, Gil was drafted into the Army. Just prior to this, Gil interviewed with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. They informed him they would have a job as a Chemist waiting for him when he returned from duty something that is most likely unheard of today. Gil spent the next 30 years there, retiring in 1990.
Immediately after college in 1957, Gil married Roberta (nee Hanson) and then promptly fulfilled his duty to the army and was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood and then to Fort Riley, Kansas for his two years of duty. Gil fondly looked back at those days and managed to make that time seem like “Hogan’s Heroes” episodes. He always made the best of everything. While stationed at Fort Riley, he and his wife had Jay and Jan. In 1960 they moved to Madison, Wisconsin and had two more children, Jill and Jane, in the next couple years. They were later divorced.
Gil always loved cars, especially vintage Buicks. Gradually he bought them all up (or so it seemed at times by Cathy!) and started a business, “Buick for Love or Money”. He belonged to various car clubs and in the early ‘80s became one of the first members of the Rock Valley Chapter of the Buick Club of America, in Janesville, Wisconsin. Traveling by Buicks around the country for car shows and swap meets became a big part of his life. For their first date, Gil invited Cathy to a car club breakfast. Gil and Cathy forged many priceless, lifelong friendships through the Buick club.
Gil and Cathy met through their employment through the State of Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, and in 1991 began their life together in Deerfield, Wisconsin on a 5-acre farmette for the next 12 years raising and rescuing all kinds of farm animals. They celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary this year.
In 2004, the mountains of Montana called, and Gil and Cathy moved to Livingston in 2004. Gil continued with his Buick interests, but also branched out a bit with his activities because there “Just aren’t as many Buicks here”, so he and Cathy baked and sold their coffee and bakery items at Farmers Markets in Livingston and in neighboring Bozeman for several years. In addition, they became foster care providers and for 8 years they brought in over 20 children, ranging from ages 2 to 18, to share their life. They were able to take some of their longer-term placements as they travelled and were able to meet Goil and Cathy’s families.
Gil loved playing basketball and watching College sports. He enjoyed watching Duke Basketball and life ground to a halt during “March Madness” each year.
On October 19, 2019, Gil became a baptized member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he was so proud of that achievement. So many wonderful friends were made there, and Cathy would like to thank them for their support and friendship through Gil’s illness.
Surviving are Gil’s wife Cathy, his children Jay, Jan, Jill and Jane, his sister, Judy Schlinsog of Marshfield, Wisconsin, and Cathy’s sister Lori (Craig) Conner of Madison, Wisconsin. Also surviving are nieces Tammy (Tom) Hardinger of Pittsvillle, Wisconsin, Tracy (Brad) Smith of Denver, Colorado, Amy (Dustin) Kuhlka of Hewitt Wisconsin, along with great-nieces and nephews, Luke, Katie, Sam, Will and Jake Hardinger of Pittsville; Jonah and Eleanor Smith of Denver; and Hattie, Cash and Mayla Kuhlka of Hewitt. In addition, (foster) son Ryan Eisele of Bozeman, Montana survives, and we want to thank him for being such a wonderful support and that he continues to share his life with us.
Preceding him in death are his father Ted in 1962, his mother Hattie and brother-in-law Darwin Schlinsog in 2019. along with his grandparents Ferdinand and Amalia Kopp; and Edward and Ella Schwarze.
A Celebration of Life will be held on December 2, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. at Quivey’s Grove, 6261 Nesbitt Road in Madison.
A Memorial service will be held in Livingston at the Kingdom Hall at 1:00 p.m. on December 16, 2023. Everyone is welcome, this is not a "closed" service. A Reception will be held at 2:00 p.m. at the Shane Lalani Center Ballroom, 415 E. Lewis St, Livingston.
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