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Monday, July 27, 2020
5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)
Monday, July 27, 2020
7:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)
LEO HENRY GETTE
1927 – 2020
After a full life of love, laughter, adventures, hard work, and his 93rd birthday celebration on June 30, Leo Gette told his family he was ready to go. He passed away on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at his home in Devils Lake.
Leo was the eighth of 10 children born to Ignatz and Elizabeth Boos Gette. A lifelong North Dakotan, he was born at his family’s farm near Alsen. His parents were Germans from Russia who had arrived in the Devils Lake area in 1913.
Leo was a storyteller and his stories will live on in the memories, photos, and videos of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of his earliest stories is from the Dust Bowl days. He was about 6 years old and his mother tasked him with the job of taking lunch to his father who was working in the field. The dust was blowing heavy that summer day, so his mother said she would wave a white dishcloth at the door and he could keep an eye on her as he made his way to the field and back. He accomplished his task and sat down with his dad to eat a sandwich. Within a couple of bites, the ham sandwich had become a dirt sandwich. He headed back to the house, watching for the waving white dishtowel. When he got to his mother, he told her he did not like dirt sandwiches. She made him a fresh, clean one, which he could eat in the house.
Perhaps he learned his kindness and inherited his loving spirit from his mother. Like him, she was a person who left an impression on all of those she met. Like her, Leo had a way of making every person he talked to feel special. With 40 years of his life spent selling and delivering beer for North Star Distributors in Devils Lake to small town bars, he had the opportunity to meet and talk with many people. When he walked into a bar, patrons would yell “Leo!” As he got older, those patrons’ sons and daughters would call out “Uncle Leo!” Then he would always say, “Who’s your dad?” That was his way of making a connection and starting a conversation.
Every one of his five children and his 12 granddaughters felt a special relationship with him. Granddaughter Jessica Smith, daughter of Leo’s youngest Darlene Gette Smith, wrote, “No one could make you feel so special so easily. His love was purely unconditional and you could feel his positive energy anytime he entered a room. I strive to be half the human he was and am blessed to carry a part of him with me forever.” Her eleven cousins agreed with her. Cousin Leanna Gette Andrews, daughter of Leo’s oldest son Roger, wrote him a special message: “Grandpa Leo—the memories will live forever in our hearts! Summers in North Dakota, parades with way too much candy, rides in go carts, the many jokes and riddles, and many more! He lived his life believing you could fix anything with duct tape, old country and westerns were the best, and his 12 granddaughters made him proud. Say hi to my dad and enjoy a beer together! Love you always.” Caitlin Gette-King, daughter of Judy Gette, also wrote to him, “I will always remember your trips to Alaska, the summer we stayed in Devils Lake, having a beer at Proz with you, hearing your stories about Germany and life on the farm, your love, kindness, generosity, and most important: your laugh. Thank you for everything, Grandpa Leo. Your light will always shine @ Devils Lake, North Dakota.”
Some of Leo’s best stories came out of the time he spent in the Army. He joined up at 18 and was a member of the Military Police Corps. He spent time in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, quite an adventure for the boy from the North. One of his granddaughters, Erin Gette-Shields, another daughter of Judy’s, wrote, “Something I have always been proud of, although at the time it was unknowingly, I followed this amazing man into the Military Police Corps. It wasn’t until I enlisted and completed basic training that he told me about his short time in the service….he taught me to remember to live in the moment.” Judging by the jaunty tilt of his Army cap in the photos, he was having a really good time living in the moment. The big, strong farm boy truly enjoyed having a bit of power over the officers when he was stationed at the gate of the base.
Granddaughters Megan Schiele and Gretchen Weiss-Brooks, daughters of Janice Gette Weiss, posted many photos and videos on Facebook, showing Grandpa in action, surrounded by his many “girls.” All 12 of them came to Devils Lake to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017, along with his children and great-grandchildren. Their next project, along with their sister Adrienne and the help of all the cousins, is making a video of his life.
Two of the saddest events in Leo’s life were the deaths of his wife Rose Marie Schiele Gette and his oldest son Roger Leo Gette. Rose died just after her 70th birthday in November 1996. Just like Rose, Roger left the family much too soon. He died in April 2012. Leo and Rose were married on January 10, 1948. They had a special ritual—on their evening walks, they would stop at the railroad tracks and share a kiss.
Leo did find love again—and married Ruby Schiele Gette in September 1997. They have had nearly 23 years together and neither felt that was enough time.
In 1986, Leo was involved in a car crash that ended his career as a beer salesman. But his strong work ethic did not allow him to sit and wallow. Instead, he went into the lawnmowing and snow blowing business, along with several other pursuits that kept him busy. He mowed lawns well into his 80s, reluctant to tell his well-satisfied customers that he was “retiring.” In addition, having received blood transfusions after the crash, he became a blood donor on a regular basis for the rest of his life.
Leo was also involved with several organizations including the American Legion Post and the Knights of Columbus. He joined a bowling league, but we always suspected it was more for the beer and camaraderie than for the knocking down of pins. He was a volunteer usher for many years at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. His religion was very important to him and he knew just where he was going when he left this life.
While North Dakota was always the place he went back to, he did love to visit other places. He drove the Alaska Highway several times to visit his daughters and their families in Alaska. While there, he took “side trips” to Barrow, Nome, Sitka, and some places neither of his daughters have ever gone. He drove to Texas to visit his sons and their families and to Arizona to see his other daughter and her family. He went south in the winter and north in the summer. With Rose and several good friends, he made a trip to Europe and visited Germany and the Czech Republic. With Ruby, he traveled to Hawaii and enjoyed the colorful winter so different from the gray and white of Devils Lake.
Leo left a long list of loving family members: His wife Ruby; children Ron Gette and his wife Nancy, Gainesville, Texas; Janice Weiss and husband Timothy, Palmer, Alaska; Judy Gette and husband Ike King, Wasilla, Alaska; and Darlene Smith, Devils Lake, North Dakota and daughter-in-law Marilyn Gette, Irving, Texas.
His youngest brother Bill Gette has been his best friend for over 80 years. Bill and his wife Sonja live in Langdon, North Dakota.
The “even dozen” granddaughters are Jennifer Johnson-Pettis, Baltimore, Maryland; Megan Schiele, Anchorage, Alaska; Erin Gette-Shields, Palmer, Alaska; Sarah Pope, San Antonio, Texas; Leanna Andrews, Grand Prairie, Texas; Gretchen Weiss-Brooks, Anchorage, Alaska; Adrienne Weiss, Anchorage, Alaska; Caitlin Gette-King, East Taunton, Massachusetts; Jessica Smith, Fargo, North Dakota; Ariel Smith, Fargo, North Dakota; Lauren Gette-King, Helena, Montana; and Dylan Gette-King, Phoenix, Arizona.
And his great-grandchildren who all got to meet him at his 90th week-long birthday party: Isabella Collins and Gabriel Collins, Anchorage, Alaska; Quinn, Trevor, and Callum Larson, Palmer, Alaska; Leah Weiss (who speaks fluent German and got a kick out of Bopa Leo’s really “old” German songs and stories), Anchorage, Alaska; Lillian Brooks, Anchorage, Alaska; Mikayla and Landon Pettis, Baltimore, Maryland; and Eleanor, Emerson, and Everett Pope, San Antonio, Texas.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church with burial in the Assumption of Mary Catholic Cemetery at rural Starkweather ND. Military Honors will be accorded by the Neathery-Simensen Post #756, Devils Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars and the North Dakota Military Funeral Honors Team.
Visitation will be held on Monday, July 27th from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake. The Rosary and Scripture Service is Monday at 7:00 p.m. with the Rosary led by the Knights of Columbus and the Scripture Service led by Rev. Mr. Ken Severinson, Deacon.
COVID-19 restrictions require social distancing and limitations of capacity in the funeral home and at the church. Please keep the safety and health of you and others in mind when attending the services.