St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Gary Chappelear 1944-2015

Gary Jo  S. Chappelear
A friend and neighbor passed away a week ago and today is the funeral in Cushing.  

Gary Jo S. Chappelear

 (August 21, 1944 - November 22, 2015)

Gary Jo S. Chappelear, 71, of Luck, WI died suddenly on November 22, 2015 at his beloved cabin in the Barrens - after spending the day deer hunting with his family.

Gary was born August 21, 1944 to Virgil and Lulu Chappelear in Frederic, WI.  He attended grade school at Pleasant Valley and graduated in 1963 from Unity High School.  He was baptized and confirmed at North Valley Church in the Lutheran Faith. He served in the Army from 1965 to 1967 and was a member of the 101st Air Borne Division.

In May of 1970, he married Shirley (Larson) and to this union 2 children were born: a son, Corey and daughter, Stacy.

He was a carpenter and general contractor for many years in White Bear Lake, MN before starting Chappelear Construction in 1980.  He also worked for The Good Samaritan Society in St. Croix Falls.

When not involved in grandchildren’s activities (which was rare as he did so much for his grandkids), he was a Boy Scout Leader, served on the church council, was one of the original members of the Cushing Sportsman Club and currently a member of the Polk County Sportsmen’s Club.  Gary loved hunting, fishing, camping, or most anything in the great outdoors.  He was also an avid Green Bay Packer fan. 

He is survived by his best friend and wife of 45 years, Shirley of Luck; son, Corey of Luck; daughter, Stacy (Stephen) Cox of Centuria; grandchildren, Brooke and Tyler Chappelear and Kaleb and Kyra Cox; brother, Randy of Farmington, MN; mother-in-law, Lorraine Larson of Luck; sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and Lee Doolittle of Cushing; plus several nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Virgil and Lulu and brother, Ricky.

He died doing what he loved so much: being at the cabin with family and deer hunting.

His family finds comfort in knowing he had a strong faith in God and he is now home with his Heavenly Father.  He was a wonderful, loving, and caring husband, father, brother, papa, uncle, cousin, and friend.  His family always came first.  He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

A Memorial Service will be held at First Lutheran Church in Cushing, WI on Saturday, November 28th – visitation will begin at 1:00 p.m. followed by the service at 2:00 p.m. Rev. Marilyn Crossfield will be officiating. Full Military Honors will be presented at the church following the service. His family requests that you attend the funeral in hunting clothes from deer camp.


Gary married a school classmate, Shirley Larson and I got to know him through her.  He was grew up on a farm east of Cushing that I visited several summers as part of the Stokely's crew planting and harvesting string beans on their farm.  

Gary and brother Marv both worked as 16-17 year olds at the Nelson pea viner just north of Cushing where they pitched peas in to the vining machine 7 days a week from daylight to dark and more in 1960.  Marv remembered Gary as the friend who had a car and if there was a break in the day's work, took a group into Cushing for an ice cream cone at Harvey's Olsen's store. 
Gary and his family loved the Polk County fair and moved in for the week in the camper section.  He could be found working in the Sportsmen's club food booth or checking out his own entries or watching his children and grandchildren with their own fair activities.

 He and his family built and later rebuilt the little chapel in the Old Settler's cemetery out west on Evergreen Avenue.  

 He took on a role in keeping local groups and activities going including his neighborhood cemetery and events in Cushing and local groups.  Rural folks have their responsibilities to keep rural life rich, and Gary did more than his share from Scouts to cemetery board, always willing to help out and take an active role in the community.  

  He told me about his apple grafting efforts.  "I buy Siberian crab apple seedlings each year through the sportsmen's club and then graft  regular apple branches on to them to get cheap apple trees."   

  Three winters ago we combed the old Hanson orchard for grafting stock for his apple grafting and inspired by his success, I ordered 30 crab trees and planted them along Evergreen to graft myself (hoping to ask him to come over this spring and help me). 

  I don't like going to funerals of friends.  Funerals force you to accept that the person is really and truly gone.  If you don't go, your mind doesn't quite finalize it, and you don't have to face the loss, and life does not seem quite so harsh.  If the friend is very old or suffering,  death is more acceptable.  But Gary left us 20 years too early.

Funerals also force us to remember that we too will soon be gone.  We try compare our own lives with those who have passed on, trying to find a cause for their death that will explain things and give us reason to hope it will be delayed for us.  

However, with Gary, it was sudden and unexpected and just as likely to happen to one of us.  The only other funeral I attended this year was last month for Mark Johnson, also taken way too young from cancer. 

 Death at an  early age reminds us far too much of our own mortality.  Although we get together at a funeral to comfort each other, death is uncomfortable.

Afternoon Update:
I went to the visitation at 1 pm.  A long line of folks, most with blaze orange hunting clothes on wound its way from inside the church far out into the parking lot.  The east half of Cushing was filled with cars, even the Co-op parking lot was filled.  

Waiting in line, visiting with the neighbors, reminiscing about Gary was good.  Seeing the photos along the inside church steps helped remind us of all of everything that Gary was involved in.  A photo in military uniform and the honor guard outside showed one part.  A photo of Gary and Corey in Boy Scout uniforms another.  Photos of childhood, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren tie together Gary's place in the family line.  

  It was good to go, express sympathy to Shirley, visit with others and remember a life well lived. 
The line at times was out to the road, and gradually worked through into the church as 2 pm approached and the funeral was ready to start.  
As requested, many folks came in the hunting clothes.  The 2015 WI deer hunting season finishes Sunday and so many folks were out hunting this morning.  

The Honor Guard checks details of the service with the Minister