Gary Lee Wilharber, 84


Gary Lee Wilharber, 84, died Feb. 23, 2024 at his home in Chandler, Ariz., after a long, wonderful life. He was the eldest child of Clarence and Leota (Feddersen) Wilharber, born June 9,1939 in Davenport, Iowa. Gary lived in Davenport and Durant Iowa before he and his wife Sandra relocated to Chandler for their retirement.

Gary graduated from St. Ambrose Academy in 1957 and loved to tell stories of the fun he and his classmates had at this all-male HS in Davenport (although it sounded like they had plenty of time for the ICA girls, too). His career began at the Rock Island Arsenal as a Fire Fighter, eventually becoming Fire Chief. He completed his career at the Arsenal as a Fire Protection Specialist, travelling extensively inspecting Government installations across the U.S. So many of Gary’s Arsenal co-workers were life-long friends and they shared many good times together. Gary also taught OSHA classes at local community colleges when the agency was initially established.

Early in his career at the Arsenal, Gary caught the eye of a young secretary and he and Sandy (Prescott) married September 15, 1962. They were soon running after their 2 children, Tammy and Mike. Sandy was the love of his life and cared for him selflessly for many years as his health declined. During a recent hospitalization, Gary & Sandy fondly recalled how very lucky they were to live this life together and how far they had come from their humble beginnings.

So many friends were made through the years; Gary was proud of his West-End roots, living across and being part of St. Alphonsus church & school, and enjoyed early adulthood playing baseball, bowling and drinking beer. He and Sandy started their marriage on the hills north of Telegraph Road where their kids were born and there was a gathering every weekend around a fire with people who became mentors & best friends. The couple moved their family to a small acreage north of Durant, Iowa enabling Gary to fulfill a life-long goal of living on a farm, as some of his happiest memories were spent on his Grandpa Feddersen’s farm near Bennett, IA. While raising their kids in Durant, sitting on bleachers & church at St. Mary’s – an expanding new group of friends were established. Gary and Sandy were hard core Hawkeye fans and had season tickets to football games for many years. Those tailgates were epic, starting early and ending late in the lot on Melrose Ave. Gary was well known for his grilled breakfasts & packed coolers. Sandy was his sidekick and always the driver home from those Saturday games!

Gary & Sandy hosted Christmas Eve, Easter, and July 4 for decades for their large families and many friends. So much fun and laughter at the Davenport house, Durant farm, & the Cedar River camp. Multi-generational attendance and SO many stories!

A memorial mass and celebration of life is being planned for the spring. Memorials can be made to St. Alphonsus Foundation Fund.

Gary is survived and remembered by his wife Sandy, married 61+ years, daughter Tammy (Troy) Randall-Norwalk, IA & son Michael (Nanci) Wilharber- Modi’in, Israel. Two granddaughters, Callan Randall–Iowa State University & Marin Randall–University of Iowa. Siblings- Nancy (Bill-deceased) Craig–Geneseo, IL, John Wilharber–Santee, CA, Sister-in-law Lynn (Dan-deceased) Wilharber-Urbandale, IA. In-laws, Dale (Betty) Prescott-Universal City, TX, Micki Prescott (Jim Miller)-Moline, IL, Randy (Cheryl) Prescott-Ft Lupton, CO, & Nick Brandle, Rock Island, IL, Al Johnson-CA, and a WHOLE BUNCH of nieces and nephews. Gary was preceded in death by his parents and in-laws – Ken & Winnie Prescott, siblings- Kenny, Mary, Joyce, Danny, and sister-in-law, Linda Brandle.