David O. Gehrman, 75, of Centuria, Wisconsin, passed away at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
David was born on August 8, 1946, to Edgar & Irene Gehrman of Turtle Lake. He was one of eight children which consisted of five boys and three girls. He lived his entire childhood in Turtle Lake.
As a child, he spent long carefree days playing and exploring with his brothers. They didn't have much for toys but they had wonderful imaginations and lots of energy. They built forts, went exploring in the woods, went fishing, hunted squirrels for supper, and in the winter they used an old car hood for a sled or else hooked it to the tractor and pulled each other around. In the summer they would make tunnels in the bales of hay in the neighbor's haymow and swing around on the ropes and were very lucky they didn't get hurt in there.
As he grew older he developed a passion for fast cars and was an excellent driver. He had many muscle cars throughout his life including a Dodge Viper which he still has. His need for speed cost him a lot of money in his younger days paying for tickets and high insurance but to him, it was well worth it. He also loved a good demo derby and won 1st place the first year he entered the one at the Polk County Fair.
David attended Turtle Lake school and then tried a series of jobs until he found his true calling of auto body. He worked for Bruce Davis owner of Davis Auto Body until he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966. This was during the Vietnam war so his boot camp program in San Diego was cut down from 12 weeks to just 9. Upon completion, he was shipped off to Vietnam to face the horror of war. David was to be a tank gunner and being 6 foot tall there was no room to spare in that tank. He was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division 1st Battalion. David received his first injury when a piece of shrapnel hit him in the forehead. After being treated for his injury he was shipped right back to duty. Unfortunately, this was not to be his only injury. While he and his unit were protecting a hill in Con Thein in early May of 1967 they were attacked in the dead of night and a full-scale battle ensued. His tank took a round through the side which hit their ammo supply and caused a huge explosion as he was attempting to exit through the turret. This caused very serious 2nd degree burns over most of his body. With only his true grit and determination to live he managed to get out of that tank. As he stood up to run for safety, first one, and then the other leg was shot out from under him. After what seemed like an eternity to him, two fellow Marines managed to pull him to safety. When daylight finally came he was taken by helicopter to the nearest field hospital to be stabilized and after several more stops, he was finally back in the U.S. at Great Lakes Naval Hospital where he would spend the next thirteen months enduring multiple surgeries for his gunshot wounds and skin grafts for his burns. It was a wondrous day when he finally got to go home to his family. By the end of his service to the Marine Corps, he had earned 2 purple hearts, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and numerous marksmanship badges.
While still on crutches he met the love of his life Ginny (Jackson). They were married on November 8, 1969, and a year later started their family by having their son John in December of 1970, son Michael in September of 1972, and daughter Julie in October of 1973.
After returning home he took time to recuperate and then started work at Anderson Window in Bayport, Minnesota. Auto bodywork kept calling him back and he started working nights and weekends in his in-law's single car garage after putting in a full day at his normal job. He had a real talent for auto body repair. His paint jobs looked like showroom when he got done with them. He started out working in his in-law's single car garage with not even an exhaust fan and went to owning two actual auto body shops, one in Milltown and one in Amery. His oldest son John bought the one in Milltown and has had a very successful business ever since. David concentrated on the one in Amery and just sold it in April of last year. David retired in 2005 but went to the shop one day a week just to see how the crew was doing. Loyal customers came from Polk, Barron, and St. Croix counties to have their work done because they knew his reputation and craftsmanship. David took pride in his work, his name, and his legacy, and he considered customers as family and treated them as such.
David also loved aviation & at one time he owned his own plane which was a single-engine two-seater Citabria tail dragger. He spent many hours giving rides and buzzing friends & relatives on the ground.
David wasn't the type of man to just sit around and always managed to keep himself busy. In his younger days, he did a lot of fishing, golfing, gardening, snowmobiling, played horseshoe on a league, kept his lawn like something out of a magazine, and traveled. Over the 52 years they were married, Dave & Ginny took the kids and most of the time extended family to places all over the United States, from seeing the California redwoods to walking on Civil War battlegrounds. After the kids were older, Dave & Ginny started traveling internationally and got to see many exotic places, including Africa and Australia to name a few. David has traveled on planes, trains, buses, ships, hot air balloons, motorcycles as well as horses and camels. He was game for almost any adventure.
In his early 60s, he developed severe COPD and it slowed him down significantly. His hobbies now turned to woodworking, jigsaw & 3-D puzzles, and old westerns on TV. Gunsmoke was his very favorite. He also enjoyed good documentaries and educational programming. The last few years were spent quietly just spending time with his wife Ginny and his beloved little dog Honey. All the Covid restrictions didn't bother him too much because he had all he needed to be content.
David is survived by his wife, Virginia Gehrman, Centuria, WI; his son, John (Tanjia) Gehrman, Centuria, WI; daughter, Julie Gehrman and her husband, Mike Eby, Orange Beach, AL; grandchildren: Jeremy Berg, Logan Berg, Justin Gehrman, Trevor Gehrman, Dayne Gehrman and Emerson Gehrman, a great-grandson, Landon Morales, siblings: Robert (Virginia) Gehrman, Steve Gehrman, Bonnie (Wade) Fields, Nancy (Gregg) Toombs, Peggy Hagman and Jim (Stacey) Gehrman, nieces, nephews, and other loving family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Edgar “Bud” and Irene Gehrman, brother, Ronald “Butch” Gehrman, and his son, Michael Gehrman.
A Celebration of Life will be held on April 23, 2022, from 2:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M. at the Milltown Community Center, 301 2nd Avenue SW, Milltown, WI 54858.
He will be laid to rest with full military honors at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Spooner, Wisc. on June 24th, 2022 at 3:00 pm.
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