Former State Representative Gilbert Esau, age 92 of Mountain Lake, died Monday, July 16, 2012 at Lake Regional Healthcare Hospital in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
Visitation will take place Thursday, 5-8 PM July 19, 2012 at Sturm Funeral Home in Mountain Lake, MN. Visitation will resume at church, one hour before the funeral.
The Funeral will be 2:00 PM Friday, July 20, 2012 at Alliance Missionary Church, Rev. Dennis Siebert officiating.
Interment will take place at Mountain Lake City Cemetery, following the funeral.
The family suggests memorials to the Mt. Lake Christian School, the Okoboji Lakes Bible & Missionary Conference, or Free Bikes 4 Kids.
Gilbert Donald Esau was born October 31, 1919 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. He was the fifth child of Abraham C. and Helena Bargen Esau. He passed away in Spirit Lake, Iowa on July 16, 2012 at the age of 92 years, 8 months and 16 days.
Though not born to wealth, he seemed born to travel and adventure. His father, an itinerant preacher, moved the family often. The family recalls a childhood of extreme poverty but great happiness, living in converted chicken coops eating whatever food struggling congregations could share. He attended the Bible School (later called the Christian Day School) in Mountain Lake. As a teenager, Gilbert chose not to move on with his parents, but remained in Mountain Lake and would make the town his lifelong home. He went to work for his uncle, Ike Bargen, and learned the auto body repair trade.
His parents were impacted by the Mountain Lake revivals of 1920. Gil Esau was reportedly the last living member of the Alliance Missionary Church who made Christian commitments while worshipping in the old Tabernacle building.
In 1941 he enlisted in the U. S. Army, serving first in the Asiatic theater in a defensive post in Alaska and the Aleutians. In 1944, he was deployed to Europe, joining Patton’s army with the 81st Field Artillery Battalion for the Battle of the Bulge. On April 4, 1945, he was among the troops who came upon the Ohrdruf concentration camp, the first such camp to be liberated. At age 89, he wrote a book, My World War II Memories, published in 2009. His personal account of the war may also be found in a series of videos on YouTube.
As many young men returning from the War, he was ready to marry and was introduced by a friend to Carol Arlene Herman from Brinsmade, North Dakota. Gil and Carol were married on Gil’s birthday, October 31, in 1947. Their first baby arrived the next year and so began the large and loving family that mourns his passing.
Gil Esau was also the proprietor of the Westside Auto Body Shop, working for many years with partner Art Gottfried and co-worker Leonard Dick. His son DeVon later joined him in the business.
Public service attracted him. He served on the Mountain Lake Village Council for 9 years in the 1950s. He then threw his hat in the legislative ring and served as a state representative for 16 years. After service in St. Paul, he returned home to serve again on the City Council for four years and was Mayor for two years. A member of the American Legion, he was in demand as a speaker at Memorial and Veteran’s Day events in the region. He also served as Legion chaplain.
He became a lay pastor serving two Presbyterian Churches and Windom Bible Church for a total of 8 years. His passion for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ grew. He began to travel with a global lay evangelism group, Church Partnership Evangelism, and took 14 trips to Ukraine (his father’s birthplace), Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, and Siberia. In these journeys he went door to door sharing his testimony of faith in Christ. He also distributed Bibles and saw hundreds come to Christ. Most memorable to him was the privilege of speaking to Russian military officers, soldier to soldier, about the grace and love of God for them and for the Russian people. Many responded with prayerful acknowledgements of saving faith.
Gil was a faithful member of the Alliance Missionary Church for all of his life. He directed the choir for 17 years, was a regular worship leader (trombone included), and traveled with the Gospel Four male quartet. He also served on the church board, was Sunday School superintendent, and taught Sunday School for many years. He was privileged to serve on the board of St. Paul Bible College (now Crown College) in the years of visionary faith as the campus was moved from St. Paul to St. Bonifacius. He also served on the board of the Okoboji Lakes Bible & Missionary Conference.
He was preceded in death by his parents, one brother, Walter, and two sisters, Helen Ratzloff and Alsada Swanson. He is survived by his wife Carol; sisters Emma Toews of Mountain Lake, Ruth Jacobsen of Aitkin, Minnesota, and Carol Anderson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and brother Daniel of Roanoke, Virginia. He is also survived by five children, Dianne Porter (Rick) of Spirit Lake, Iowa; DeVon (Sheryl) of St. Peter, Minnesota; Terry (Mary) of Long Lake, Minnesota; Tammy Engstrom (John) of Mountain Lake; and Brenda Harder (Phil) of Mountain Lake; as well as 16 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
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