Joseph Eugene GEBHARDT
August 12, 1932 – August 2, 2018
Joseph Eugene Gebhardt Obituary August 12, 1932– August 2, 2018
Joseph Eugene Gebhardt passed away on August 2, 2018, in Stuart, Florida, due to complications from treatment for cancer. He was 10 days short of his 86th birthday.
From his birth on August 12, 1932, in Sunbury, PA, Joseph led a long and adventurous life full of love and laughter, family and friends, and his never-ending love for engineering, tinkering and figuring things out. Joe grew up in the hills and valleys surrounding the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania, spending his early years in the quiet town of Middleburg, where church and baseball were the main activities. He often said that his childhood was spent fishing, hunting and getting into the kind of trouble a young boy growing up in the 1930s ought to, running with his younger brother Billy and friends with nicknames like Birdegg and Moondog. He claims to have once set a barn on fire (no harm done) and later jumped out a window in the same barn using a bedsheet as a parachute – earning a lifelong bum shoulder in the process. At 13 he moved to nearby Liverpool, PA and eventually graduated from Greenwood Joint High School in Millerstown, where he met the love of this life, Kathryn Troutman. He claimed that when he first set eyes on her, he knew this was his girl; he rolled his class ring across the gymnasium floor and when she picked it up, their fate was sealed. They celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2005 with a family trip to Cancun, and their 60th Anniversary surrounded by family and friends in Florida in 2015.
After high school, Joe joined the Army, and three years later, he and Kay were married along the banks of the Susquehanna and left the next day for Bamberg, Germany, where Joe was stationed as a telegrapher. Sixty-four years later in his hospital bed, he was still tapping out Morse cord, frustrated that the nurses couldn’t decipher his message. Using the GI Bill, Joe worked his way through college at his beloved Penn State, graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in Mechanical Engineering in 1960. Joe, Kay and their two little boys moved to Kent, Ohio, for a job in the aerospace industry in 1961. He loved being a part of the “Right Stuff” generation and working to develop parachutes to slow the falling Mercury and Apollo space capsules – none of which, he admitted, worked much better than his makeshift parachute from the barn. As the moonshot decade waned, he found his long-term place in automotive plastics manufacturing, eventually earning an MBA from Kent State University, at age 52. He later taught Plastics Technology at Kent State, and even served as editor of Plastics Engineering magazine.
But Joe’s greatest passion was his family. Along with Kay, who lives in Stuart, FL, he is survived by his three sons: Steve, 61, in Nashville, TN; Randy, 57, in Stuart, FL; and Christopher, 51, in Los Angeles. His is also survived by three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren -- Tyler, Cory, Misha, Elle, Cole and Neve – and one great-grandson, Ethan. In his last years, he and Kay adopted and fell in love with what he called their “little brown dog,” Mocha; Joe would be mad if his beloved little Moki wasn’t mentioned. He took them all in – daughters-in-law, grandchildren, adopted grandchildren, great grandchildren, dogs and cats – with a big hug and an accepting smile. He was preceded in death by his mother, Olive Leone Miller DeHaven, father Eugene Gebhardt, and foster parents Joseph and Nana Dreese, and brother William.
Joe passed along his upbeat and resilient outlook on life to everyone he met. He was optimistic and sunny, and had a wicked, sometimes warped sense of humor, disarming any tense situation with a light-hearted bit of humor, often with a slightly off-beat twist. His strenuous attempts to get all three sons to become engineers were unsuccessful, but he did pass on his knack for do-it-yourselfing, improvising and persevering. He also could “half-play” numerous instruments and loved to sing and hum, a gift from his precocious, always-smiling mother who played a standup bass that was two feet taller than her. When Joe and Kay retired in 1999 after 38 years in Ohio, they moved to Florida to be close to cousins from their childhood, and enjoyed 20 years of idyllic retirement, meeting many great friends with whom they dined and played bridge, golfed, took cruises, and joined bus tours around the country.
And Joe had a secret – he pined his entire life to be a published author, working long evenings for over 10 years to write and self-publish his first novel, “Bend in the River,” a piece of historical fiction based on pre-Revolutionary War years and set – fittingly – along the banks of the Susquehanna River. While it didn’t sell many copies, Joe took great pride in his accomplishment, and for the past 10 was tinkering – as was his style – with at least three other books.
He was equally whimsical and deeply philosophical, but if there were two words that summed up Joe Gebhardt, they would be “carefree and likeable.” In his long hospital stay, several nurses and aides took a special liking to him, so much so that physicians said they rarely saw nurses form such a deep bond with a patient. They hugged and kissed him like their own father. Joe was at peace with his fate, his deep and abiding faith giving him comfort that his 67-year love story with Kay lives on, and soon enough he will be together again with his beloved wife, his family, and friends. Joe’s light-hearted optimism, his intelligence, his wit, his off-beat humor and his comforting hug, will be missed – but remembered and cherished -- by all of us.
- Celebration of Joseph Eugene Gebhardt's Life Sunday, August 5, 2018