March 20, 1939 – January 17, 2020
Gerhard Ludwig Ebhardt was born March 20, 1939 in Alt Vrbas, Yugoslavia to his late parents Ludwig and Helen Ebhardt. He passed away on January 17th at the age of 80, with his loving wife of 59 years Alida, their oldest son Paul, and daughter-in-law Robin at his side. Gerhard was a beloved Son, Husband, Father, Opa, Brother, Uncle, Nephew, Cousin and Friend, and he will be dearly missed.
Gerhard’s family had farmed and raised all kinds of livestock in Yugoslavia for 200 years prior to World War II, employing up to 200 people during harvest time. Fleeing the Russian advance and possibility of becoming prisoners of war, the family left Yugoslavia traveling through much of Eastern Europe by wagon, refugee train and on foot, eventually settling in Munich, Germany in 1946. Gerhard’s Father returned from a POW camp in 1948, and in 1951 when Gerhard was 11 years old, his family emigrated from Germany to the United States. They were sponsored by an uncle who emigrated in 1923, and lived in Louisiana working for his uncle’s honey bee business. Gerhard’s family moved to Minneapolis in 1954, where his Aunt Susanna Morgenthaler and Uncle Jacob Ebhardt lived. At age 16 Gerhard apprenticed as a pipe organ builder, a rare specialty he continued in after graduating from Central High School in 1957. Some of his major pipe organ projects were moving the 2,700 pipe organ from the State Theatre in Minneapolis to a private residence in Bismarck, North Dakota, installing an organ in a Cargill owned house on Lake Minnetonka and refurbishing the organ at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
In December of 1959 Gerhard’s brother Norbert brought Gerhard to the home of Alida Cosse’ to meet her for the first time. They began dating around Christmas that year, and enjoyed dances at the local German Club. In 1961 Gerhard and Alida were married, shortly before Gerhard was inducted into the Army. He proudly served two years as a Military Policeman at Ft. Carson, Colorado which was during the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was honorably discharged in December of 1963 and Gerhard and Alida returned to Minneapolis with their first child, Paul. Gerhard applied to become a police officer for the Edina Police Department, but his Mother hid their reply letter because she didn’t want him to be a policeman during the violent protests of the 1960’s.
That same winter Gerhard opened “Southtown 66” as an independently owned franchise location of Phillips Petroleum in Bloomington, Minnesota. It became a very successful automotive service station and family business that provided a good living, and many opportunities to his children. Gerhard opened his business in January of 1964, when the average price of gas was $0.30 per gallon, with a small toolbox and a knack for fixing all things mechanical. He was especially talented with cars, which he often raced both legally at the old North Star Speedway dragstrip, and not so legally on the streets and highways around Minneapolis and Bloomington. Gerhard, or Jerry as his customers and most of his friends knew him, became well known throughout the Midwest for his automotive skills, specializing in Corvettes, as well as his business ethics which he maintained for over 22 years. His business survived the 1973 oil embargo when 7 out 10 service stations failed. Gerhard and Alida’s other children Michael and Jennifer were born during this time. A severe back injury compelled the sale of Gerhard’s business in 1985.
Gerhard’s family and friends took many trips around the United States, Canada and Europe, often by motorcycle or RV. Motorcycling was his favorite hobby which he continued until age 79. Other hobbies and activities Gerhard enjoyed were spending time at the family cabin near Finlayson, Minnesota and buying and selling many cars and motorcycles over the years. He was also an avid reader, political debater and fervid animal lover, enjoying many furry companions over the years including several dogs and cats.
In 2015 Gerhard and Alida moved to Colorado Springs to reside with their son Paul and daughter-in-law Robin. Daily life became much easier in Colorado, especially due to the loving attention and care provided by Paul and Robin. They took several RV trips together, shared daily chores and nightly meals together, and of course Gerhard spent countless hours supervising in Paul’s garage. Gerhard actually rebuilt a 1969 Ford Falcon carburetor as recently as 2018.
Gerhard said many times that his life was full, and that he’d seen and done all the things that he wanted to do. He now rests in peace without pain or discomfort.
Gerhard is preceded in death by parents Ludwig & Helen, stepmother Helene, Sister Gerlinda, brother Norbert, aunt Susanna Morgenthaler, uncle Jacob and aunt Marie, and cousin Peter Ephardt. He is survived by his loving wife Alida, sons Paul and his wife Robin, Michael and his wife Sherri, daughter Jennifer, grandchildren Kelly and her husband Tyler, Kenneth and Matthew, sister-in-law Enny, nephew Mark and his wife Gina, grand-nephews Ryan, Brett, Jackson and Vincent and cousin Herbert Morgenthaler and his wife Inge.
We will greatly miss Gerhard, his strong character, compassionate nature, and passion for what he believed in. A celebration of life will be held at 2:00pm February 15th at Shrine of Remembrance 1730 E Fountain Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO 80910 with a reception to follow. Interment will be at a later date at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Memorials may be made to Patient Advocate Foundation at patientadvocate.org which provides assistance to patients with life-threatening illnesses.