Edward L. Gebhardt was born on September 4, 1926 in Peoria, IL, the son of Harry and Carrie Long Gebhardt. On July 2, 1947 he married Maycel Bundy in LaHarpe.
Edward served in the Navy during World War II. He worked for Waller Brothers in Macomb, for the LaHarpe Lumber Co. and for 9 years at J.I. Case in Burlington. Ed also worked as a self employed carpenter for many years. He was a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge #195, American Legion Post 301 and the VFW. He had served on the LaHarpe City Council, as well as the LaHarpe Fire Department.
Edward passed away on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 in La Harpe at his home. He was 87.
Survivors include his wife, 3 sons, Ed (Carol) Gebhardt of Burlington, IA, Kerry (Beth) Gebhardt of Sciota, IL, and Marvin (Kelly) Gebhardt of Blandinsville, IL, 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandson.
Edward was preceded in death by his parents, one son, Byron Gebhardt, 2 brothers Merrill Gebhardt and Charles “Bud” Gebhardt, and 2 sisters, Helen Fryrear and Janet Carter.
Edward Gebhardt was a man who was determined to make the most of life. He believed that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right. This was evident in most everything he did.
As a carpenter, Edward’s desire to do things the right way was clearly seen in his work. He didn’t want to do work that was sub-standard, and he had little tolerance for others who did such work. He didn’t have much patience for people who thought that sub-standard work was acceptable, and he had no problems expressing himself when he felt someone didn’t see the problem. I heard at least one story of him kicking down a wall that was not built to his standards—when Edward felt what you were doing was wrong, there was no question about what he thought!
Whether he was laying brick or doing finish carpentry, he want to ensure what he was doing was done well. He instilled those same values into his sons, and his influence is clearly seen in his family when you spend time with them. This is probably why when Edward and his sons tackled a project together, they could do some excellent work. That was evident when they built the house in town—it looked so perfect and went up so quickly that everyone assumed it was pre-fabbed! But Edward wanted to make sure people understood that it was built by hand…it was just done right.
You could see this tendency in the little things in Edward’s life as well. A common theme in the stories the family told me was the idea that Edward was a little stubborn or hard-headed. Some of this was just his desire to be ornery, and some could have stemmed from the idea that he believed his way was the right way. When he made coffee, he made it his way—and I’m told it was so strong it could be cut with a knife. When he flavored his coffee, he needed to use Milnot, because that was his “creamer” of choice. When he bought Kleenex, he bought a box full of boxes of Kleenex. He did everything boldly.
Interestingly, Edward was a man whose character was one of contrasts. This tough guy, who picked up coal as a 4-year old to help provide for his family and almost never missed a day of work also had a tender heart. He loved his wife throughout their 66 years of marriage. That was readily apparent after Maycel moved to the nursing home when Edward felt he could no longer give her the care she deserved. Even after she moved, he would come to visit her several times each day and continued to look out for his wife. He loved his family and they all knew that he would always be willing to help them if he was able. He did some kind of work on many of his kids’ and grandkids’ homes through the years. He put up a gruff exterior, but there was little question of whether Edward Gebhardt loved his family—he did.
As we stand here today, we find ourselves searching for answers. We ask why some people get cancer and others don’t. We ask why everything in life can seem to change so quickly. We ask why people have to die. We don’t always have answers to questions like these. One question we might ask, however, does have an answer.
As we stand at a graveside, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this it?” Is this really all there is? Is the whole point of life to live, love, work, and then die? In the Bible, Jesus tells us that this life is not all there is. He said to his disciples,
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Jesus tells us that there is life that exists after this life. He reminds us that this life is merely a prelude to the one that is to come. He is telling us that Heaven is a real place, and that those who follow Him really go there.
Most people in our country have the notion that everyone who dies automatically goes to Heaven, but that isn’t what the Bible says. Jesus tells us that the only way to Heaven is to trust and follow Him. He said that we can’t trust in our own supposed goodness, or in who we know, our only hope is to trust in Jesus Christ and to follow Him as we live our lives.
I know that Edward didn’t go to church, but it is still possible to have a genuine faith in Jesus without going to church. I don’t know exactly what Edward’s faith was like, but I do know this—if he genuinely trusted Jesus, then today he is in Heaven.
If there is something I think we can learn from the life of Edward Gebhardt, it’s that we are going to live our lives, we ought to do it right. As we stand at a grave, the question of what it means to “do it right” comes into sharp focus. Edward taught us that it’s important to work hard and not cut corners. He taught us that it’s important to love your family and to show it in the way you treat them. But as we stand at a grave and ask the question, “What now?” We are also reminded that the most important thing we can do in life is to make sure we answer the question of who we follow. If we can say for certain that we follow Jesus, then we do not need to see a gravesite as a place of hopelessness and loss, but a place of hope, a place that reminds us that this life is not all there is.
Will you pray with me?
Father, today I pray for this family. Be with them as they grieve the loss of a dearly loved family member. Comfort them with memories of the man they all loved and bind them to one another. Most of all Lord, please help them to see you. Comfort them with the promise that this life is not all there is. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.