February 22, 1918 - December 16, 2012
The world lost another World War II veteran Sunday, December 16, 2012, and I lost a father. It was his great gift to me that he waited until I arrived to leave, and I will be forever grateful. He was my rock, my foundation in life. When people, places, things, and decisions failed me, he never did. It seems so unfair that he has no other children or grandchildren to mourn his loss.
Gil was the third child and first son of seven children, born to one of the many working poor of St. Paul, Minn. Because there were too many mouths to feed at home, he joined the W.C.C. when he was 17 and worked in the northern woods for a year, sending money back home. Afterward he was a stocking clerk at the Golden Rule Department store in downtown St. Paul, followed by time feeding the huge rolls of paper into the printing presses for the St. Paul Dispatch newspaper. When that job ended, he hitchhiked to California during the Great Depression, cutting hair, picking fruit, and doing odd jobs to earn some money and having several adventures.
When WWII erupted, he enlisted in the Marine Corp and became a Master Technical Sergeant in the 131st Aviation Training Squadron, instructing others on bomb construction and maintenance. He was in the South Pacific shortly after several key islands were taken by U.S. troops and remembers a particularly nasty night in a foxhole being shelled for hours. (Interestingly, he discovered the name on his birth certificate was actually George Gilbert Wasko, because he was born on Washington's birthday.)
In 1945 he was discharged in San Diego, traveling north to Los Angeles to contact his aunt and find a job. He joined Beckman Instruments, makers of medical equipment (they were the inventors of the centrifuge that separates blood components) and became a supervisor in the Prototype Shop. He met my mother at Beckman, and married her in July of 1948, staying with Beckman for 35 years. His career took them from Fullerton, Calif. to Palo Alto, Calif., where they bought a house in nearby Santa Clara where I grew up.
Retiring in 1980, he never looked back, enjoying his free time with golf, baseball (love those Giants!), reading, writing, wire sculpture, carpentry, and just being with Mom. Later they lived in Penn Valley and Folsom, Calif., then followed me to Florida, purchasing a home in Palm Harbor, where Mom passed away in September of 2005. When I managed to return to the west coast, I moved to Medford in 2006, and he located five miles away in Jacksonville, always considering his travels an adventure.
Dad was a morning person, loved his oranges and avocados, always had a smile on his face, and quietly led his life by example. He was opinionated and had a quick and quirky sense of humor that often showed in his writing. He was generally not too preachy, had rare bouts of temper, and always supported his family in ways small and large. Most people found him engaging and will remember him fondly for his love of life and good cheer.
There will be a simple, no-frills cremation with no service. Those were his wishes, and right now I'm not ready for a service anyway. So this brief but loving record of his life and what he meant to myself and others must do its best to try and capture the pride I feel when I call him Dad.
Until we meet again, I remain
Your Loving Daughter,