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The “Show-Me-Hodags”: Ron and Elsie Gaber take a heartfelt look at time well-spent in Rhinelander

Ron and Elsie Gaber

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” –George Washington Carver 1864-1943

For Ron Gaber, life began in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. He was born to Sylvester and Eleanore Gaber and was one of six treasured siblings including Gene, Wally, Dale, Sister Delia (Janice), and Roger. A 1967 graduate of Rhinelander High School, Ron was a three-year letterman in football and worked part-time at Reeves Foodlane throughout high school and college.

Elsie also had ties to Rhinelander as an employee for Red Pine Camp for Girls in Woodruff. The two were married in Rhinelander over four decades ago and in 1976 moved to the Show-Me-State of Missouri in Kirksville. Every year they make their way back to Rhinelander to share in family and social activities. 

The Gabers are diehard Hodags. They have formed many Missouri and Indiana Hodag recreation softball and bowling teams. Their vehicle proudly displays their heritage with Missouri “HODAGS” license plates. At their home, you will find a large carved hodag statue in their flower garden. They are often cited as the “Show-Me-Hodags.” 

Ron and Elsie both retired from extensive and diverse careers in higher education. Ron has a BS in Recreation Management, an MA degree, and an Ed.S. in Education. Elsie has a BA in English/Psychology, an MA in Counseling, an Ed.S. in Education, and a PhD in Administration. Both are long standing (over 30 years each) Rotarians and multiple Paul Harris Fellows.

The pair worked at Ball State University, Truman State University and A.T. Still University of Health Sciences. Ron retired from A.T. Still University as Dean Emeritus and Vice President Emeritus of Student Affairs in 2012. Elsie served as an Academic Advisor and Counselor, Vice President for University/Community Relations, and retired as the Director of Training and Compliance in 2014. Additionally, both held faculty positions and taught university courses.

Looking from the outside in, Ron and Elsie appreciate the vitality and progressiveness of the Rhinelander community; maybe better than those who live here. “Rhinelander is an incredibly beautiful community with progressive can-do leaders,” Ron and Elsie explain. “This is evidenced by the school system, athletic facilities, tourism, recreation opportunities, and support of museums to preserve the wonderful heritage.”

The Gabers were especially happy with the assistance, encouragement, and expertise the Rhinelander Community Foundation provided in guiding and supporting their philanthropic goals. 

“Many positive things can occur when a community is committed to each other,” explained Ron and Elsie. A donation to the Rhinelander Community Foundation was to say “Thank You, Hodags!” for providing opportunities of employment, friendships, vacations, education, and recreational opportunities. Their donation to the Gaber Family Endowment – Paper Mill Historical Exhibit at the Pioneer Park Historical Museum Complex and donating to the Hodag Dome will help preserve the positive aspects of a historic paper industry that so many in Rhinelander were dependent on to raise families and to have economic development. 

Most importantly, contributions were made to honor and recognize the Gaber families and relatives who have been community contributors in so many positive ways in business, service and athletic/academic success since the early 1900’s!


Reminisce… the Gaber’s Special Memories

  • Pioneer Park Museum, ice skating, hockey, and softball tournaments
  • Boom Lake park, swimming, boat races, baseball games, and fireworks
  • Townline Lake Saturday night kid’s baths, the Point, Hanson Lake, and family picnics
  • St. Mary’s school and church
  • Carl Reevs, best friend, best man at our wedding
  • The traditional Rhinelander-Antigo Bell Football Game
  • Rainbow Flowage, Gaber/Pecore family fishing, picnics, and boating
  • Rosie’s Rustic Air, Beachcomber, Hodag Bar, Home Resort fish fries, Crystal Rock, and Fredericks
  • Ice fishing, snowshoe softball, and skating at Westside and Pioneer rinks
  • Friends and relatives too numerous to name!
  • Hodag Fest, Hodag Daze, Hodag booze
  • Papermill fishponds, rock jumping, noon whistle, smell, and endless log piles