Cliff and Mary Gerbers are marshals of Gillett parade

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Couple embraces small-town life
By: 

Times Herald Photo by Warren Bluhm

Mary and Cliff Gerbers like the atmosphere and camaraderie of small-town life. They’ve been selected as grand marshals of the Gillett Fourth of July parade.

People know each other and watch out for each other in a small town, because that’s what neighbors do, Cliff and Mary Gerbers said last week in a conversation at their kitchen table.

It’s a way of life that drew the couple to settle in Gillett 40 years ago, and a philosophy they’ve practiced so well that they were selected as grand marshals of the Gillett Fourth of July parade through downtown.

“Cliff has been a staple in the city of Gillett and the school board for decades,” said Noel Nienstedt, chairman of the Gillett Civic Club’s Fourth of July Committee, “and Mary has been a big part of the community, too.”

The couple were charter members of the Gillett Jaycees Club, moving over to the Civic Club when they turned 35. They’ve both been active members of St. John’s Catholic Church, where Cliff still teaches catechism.

“In his current class of 10 children, four are second-generation – children of kids he taught years ago,” Mary said. “You can definitely see the parents in the kids. It’s always a lot of fun.”

“I hope I can make a difference in some of those kids’ lives,” Cliff said.

Cliff was first elected to the Gillett School Board in 1983 and is currently serving his 12th three-year term. He’s been treasurer of the board since his second year.

They can’t claim to be natives of Gillett, although their children (three boys and one girl) can. Cliff and Mary grew up across the Fox River from each other in De Pere, and they were married not long after he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1971.

After two years in Natick, Massachusetts, while Cliff was in the service, they moved back to Wisconsin and landed in Gillett when Cliff joined the Gillett State Bank in 1976. They bought the century-old brick house north of the city that is still their home a couple of years later.

“When I think of all the people who’ve been selected as grand marshals, and all they’ve done for this community, it’s an honor to be put in that group,” Cliff said.

He encountered many of those people through the school board and Civic Club, as well as the 25 years he served on the old Oconto County Housing Board, providing rental assistance throughout the county.

“I got to work with a lot of good people who volunteered their time,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people do so much for others in a small town.”

“It’s people you know,” Mary said. “We watch out for each other and each other’s kids.”

Cliff was one of 10 bankers who organized the Community Bank in 1989, and he was part of that organization and its successors until 2005, when it became part of what is now BMO Harris Bank. He’s been with Peshtigo National Bank since then and plans to retire as a consultant on July 1, although he’ll remain on the board of directors.

Their children – Bradley, Gregory, Daniel and Laurie – range in age from 35 to 45.

The parade is the centerpiece of the annual Gillett Fourth of July Celebration. “Hail Our American Heritage” is the theme of this year’s parade, which will be held at the traditional time of 2 p.m. Tuesday. The Five Klement’s Racing Sausages from Brewers games return among the highlights.

Individuals or groups interested in being a part of the parade will need to be at the Gillett High School no later than 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. Entries may follow the theme or any other appropriate expression.

For information, call Rachel Borneman at 715-216-3855.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Gillett Fourth of July celebration

WHERE: Zippel Park.

WHEN: Monday — Truck and antique tractor pull at 7 p.m., music by Nash Vegas begins at 7 p.m.; Tuesday — Antique and classic car and truck show at 9 a.m., horse pull at 10 a.m., parade at 2 p.m., music by Jess Hav’n Phun at 3 p.m., farm tractor pull at 6 p.m., music by Rapid Transit at 8 p.m., fireworks show at dusk.