Lawrence E. (Larry) Gilbertz died peacefully at home on November 26, 2011. He was
Dad was a rancher and cattleman. He was born February 3, 1929, the son of Campbell
County homesteaders, Jake and Lena Gilbertz. He grew up on hard work. Throughout
his life, he built miles and miles of barbed wire fence and, in many ways, he was like
Barbed wire is sharp and prickly. It's thin but tough. If you try to wrestle with it, it'll bend
and twist back on itself until you're real sorry you ever picked that fight. But the purpose
of barbed wire is to keep the stock secure in a place where you can protect and care for
them. Only a fool would try to whitewash a barbed-wire fence, so we'll try to tell the truth
here -- mostly.
Dad was sharp. He graduated from Campbell County High School, where he excelled on
the debate team. He always wanted to be a lawyer, but he laid that dream aside to take
over the family ranch when his father asked him to do it. Dad had a great intelligence
and wide-ranging interests. He could fix anything with baling wire and spit. He educated
himself on mineral law, then negotiated hard-nosed contracts with oil and gas
developers. Dad traveled the world with Mom. He served on bank boards and school
boards. He was a state senator assigned to the appropriations committee for six years.
Dad was a keen observer of life, and the irony of any situation was never lost on him.
He could also be prickly, sometimes downright cantankerous. He married Mom, Verna
Ann Howell, in 1955. They were partners in work and play for over 56 years.They raised
four children. Family life with Dad included healthy doses of yelling, cussing, snorting
and stomping, sprinkled with plenty of laughter and fun. The end result was a whole
family of opinionated, stubborn kids, who learned how to work hard, work smart, and
suck it up when they felt like whining or quitting.
For most of his life, Dad wasn't just thin, he was downright skinny. And he was tough.
He served in the U.S. Army in post-war Germany in the worst cold he ever knew. He was
stomped, kicked and run over by cattle and horses, slid down a telephone pole on his
face while trying to fix the line, ran his finger through an auger, drove a snowmobile off
the edge of the Pumpkin Buttes, pulled calves in the bitter spring storms and harvested
grain in the scorching summer. He liked to party hard. He always kept going.
There were plenty who wished they hadn't picked a fight with Dad. He sued the IRS and
won. He forced mineral development companies to respect the ranch land, clean up
their trash and re-seed disturbed areas with his own special grass seed blend. Arguing
with Dad was a lost cause. He was always right. Period.
He never lost his purpose in life. He believed passionately in being fair, and he stood up
for others when he thought they were being treated wrongly. Many friends and family
members turned to him for advice and guidance on financial, legal, and mineral issues.
He loved the ranch and his family. There was a special spot in his heart for our cabins in
the Tongue River Canyon. He sought to protect and to care for us all. His father was his
friend. He was devoted to his mother. He helped provide for his sisters. He was most
afraid when he thought he would lose Mom to cancer. He was extraordinarily proud of
his grandchildren. In his seventies, he learned to say "I love you" to us all. Dad told
Mom he considered his children his greatest accomplishment in life. Although we only
heard it spoken so plainly after he died, there was never any doubt that he loved us and
was proud of us.
Now, it's our turn. We love you, Dad, and we are very proud of you and your many
contributions to our family, the community and the state. Thanks for your steady
guidance, your wit and wisdom and your generosity. You were the toughest, most
reliable partner we had. We are going to miss you greatly.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Leona Koers, Helen Marshall,
Margaret Boyle, Dorothy Clifford and brother Kern DeCourcey.
He is survived by his wife, Verna Ann; four children Kathie Gilbertz Shandera and her
husband Steve of Billings, MT, L.D. Gilbertz and his wife, Rebecca of Gillette, Susan
Gilbertz of Billings, MT, and Jay Gilbertz and his wife Elisabeth of Sheridan, Wy; eight
grandchildren Amy LeMarr, Sarah Shandera, Chris Gilbertz, Anni Shandera-Ochsner, Ty
Gilbertz, Laura Benedict, Logan and Gavin Gilbertz; two step-grandchildren, Jake and
Daniel Wilson, two great-grandsons Saxton and Brannon LeMarr; numerous nieces and
nephews, and extended family members Jody Mills and Marsha Gilbertz.
Visitation will be Monday 6-8 p.m. and Tuesday 3-7 p.m. at Walker Funeral Home, 410
Medical Arts Court. The vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Walker's. Mass of
Christian burial will be at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at St. Matthew's
Catholic Church. Burial will be at Savageton Cemetery, followed by a luncheon at Pleasant
The family suggests memorials to the Campbell County Rockpile Museum, the Heptner
Cancer Center at Campbell County Memorial Hospital or the charity of one's choice. Memorials and condolences may be sent in Larry's name in care of Walker Funeral Home, 410 Medical Arts Court, Gillette, Wyoming 82716. Condolences may also be sent via the website www.walkerfuneralhome.com.