Heath Gilkes, 52, of Westby, Wisconsin passed peacefully on February 13th, 2021 in his home with his family by his side after a short, vicious battle with cancer. Heath was born in LaCrosse on June 25, 1968, to Kenneth and Marilyn (Sutton) Gilkes. He grew up in rural Westby on the family farm near Esofea and graduated from Westby High School in 1986. He later attended UW-River Falls, graduating with a major in Agriculture.
It was in college that he met the love of his life, Tammy Berndt, who would become his wife in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, on April 6, 1991.
He worked in the agricultural field after graduation for companies including Land o’ Lakes and Koon Kreek Feeds. Later, he joined the property management company of Allegiant who he was still consulting for until his illness. He found his greatest passion professionally when he began a third career, working for Thrivent Financial two years ago. Heath loved the idea of helping people become secure in their financial future with a company dedicated to and founded on the principles of Christianity. Heath was a helper, so when the city and township of Christiana asked him to serve as their zoning administrator, he accepted the part-time position and made many good friends in the process.
Heath’s life was so full of passion, and it showed in his daily life. His family was always a priority, and he supported Tammy and Alexis in all they did--he was a proud dance dad, a part-time softball coach, a set constructor, a spectator, and a constant cheerleader. Heath believed in God and worked to lead a life of service to his church. He was a council member at Westby Coon Prairie Church, an extra hand to keep things working, and a co-leader of Westby Area Youth, who he missioned with on urban immersion trips as well as Youth Work Trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation. After his first mission trip to Pine Ridge, he felt a calling. He and his family found a home away from home there, adding many to the group they call family. Another passion so dear to him was his work with the Chaseburg Soleburner. When Linda DeGarmo asked him to help with the fight against cancer--he gladly joined her team. He served on the committee for several years and was the honorary chairperson for the 10th anniversary. He was a member of the Driftless Referral Partners and the Power of 100+ Driftless Region. When he had spare time he loved being outside, working in his shop creating outdoor furniture, hiking at the KVR or hunting during gun and bow season.
Heath is survived by his wife Tammy and daughter Alexis (Carey Nolan) along with five siblings: Debra of LaCrosse, Francine (Bill Gartner) of Waterloo, WI, Charles (Rachael) of Onalaska, Damien (Cheryl) of Onalaska, and Jean (Brian Lange) of Hillsboro, his in laws, John and Bonnie Berndt of Southside, Al, sister-in-law, Tina (Arlin Spencer) of Scottsboro, AL, and brother-in-laws Tim Berndt (Tina Walrack) of Linden, WI, Tom (Angie) Berndt of Southside, AL, and Ted (Ray) Berndt of Otsego, MN. He was also very fond of the many nieces and nephews he was fortunate to have.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ken and Marilyn, and two sisters, Trudi and Katrina (Bruce) Schlaver.
A Christian Celebration of Life will be at The Church of Christ in Viroqua on Saturday February 20 at 11:00 am led by Pastor Michele Engh with visitation beginning at 10:00 am. A visitation will be held on Friday, February 19th from 4:00 to 7:00 at the Seland Funeral Home in Coon Valley. Condolences may be given at selandsfuneralhome.com. Please wear a mask, observe social distancing and refrain from attending if you are not feeling well.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the hospice family who helped us care for Heath in his final days, especially Angie, along with the Gundersen Lutheran doctors and nurses who provided critical care. We want to extend our appreciation to our families, the Thrivent work family, our Westby Area School District family, Imposition of Ashes for the amazing concert, Peter and Michele Engh for organizing events and the entire community that provided prayers, helping hands, meals, cards, a car parade, well wishes and so much love and understanding. Every single act of kindness, no matter how big or small, helped us and will continue to help through this very difficult time.
To send flowers to Heath's family, please visit our floral store.