Gordon D. “Gordy” Gifford, age 82, of Rochester, MN, formerly of Durand, WI, after a lifetime of farming, flying, and driving, left for his next journey on the night of April 23, 2022, in the midst of a thunderstorm bringing warm rain for good spring growing.
Gordy was born March 18, 1940, to Lena (Helmueller) and David Gifford. He entered the world with a joy for life, hard work, and valuing relationships with family and friends. When learning of his brain tumor, he applied this same approach and worked hard to recover from surgery so he could enjoy “Biner’s” cooking, a Windsor Coke, and peanuts at cocktail hour, and sharing stories with family and friends.
Gordy graduated from Durand High School in 1958. He worked with his father grinding feed with Gifford Feed Service and with his mother running Gifford’s Store in Maxville, WI, selling gas and groceries as well as tagging deer during hunting season. He learned a love for farming from the Louie and Irene Brion family, who loved him like a son.
In the fall of 1958, Gordy met Lavina Fedie at a dance at the Arkansaw Rec Hall – the start of a 62-year romance. They were married on September 12, 1959, and lived a happy, sometimes tragic, but always loving life together. Gordy and Lavina raised their children on Maxville prairie and Chippewa View Heights. With his wife by his side, Gordy lived a full life, and together they gave of their time and resources in service and support to their children, church, and community.
Gordy’s entrepreneurial spirit allowed him to envision what was possible, and his “can-do” spirit led to him starting and running many innovative businesses along Highway 25, including multiple farming operations, Gifford Aviation, and Durand Egg. Gifford Enterprises employed many people, and sometimes whole families, within the Durand community for many years.
The tragic loss of their son Steve in 1987 and financial losses suffered during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s led to a need for a fresh start. After moving to Wabasha and then Rochester, Minnesota to be closer to their daughters, Gordy’s broken but resilient spirit led to a period of growth that was difficult to see at the time, but in hindsight he realized the many new people and experiences he was blessed to have. He consulted to egg producers, managed a high-rise apartment complex in Minneapolis, and purchased, prepped, and sold non-operating flour mills to become mixed-use businesses.
In 2016, he entered the limousine business, working with his daughter Gina as she grew her luxury transportation business in the Twin Cities and Rochester. Meeting new people while chauffeuring them to their destinations gave Gordy a new spark. His personality and punctuality earned him high praises from all clients and passengers. He met and befriended people from all over the world and all walks of life. A recent and very meaningful driving assignment he had was transporting organ transplant teams for the Mayo Clinic and their “precious cargo” to and from the airport. He was honored to be a vital link in the chain of giving someone a new chance at life and honoring those whose loss made the gift possible.
Gordy loved his life. He was sad to leave us, but he was so looking forward to seeing his son again after 35 years apart.
Gordy’s memory lives on through his wife Lavina, and his daughters and their families: Liz and Jack and their sons Peter and Thomas; Maria and her son Karl, and his dad Tim; and Gina, her friend Chris, and her stepdaughters Mariah and Carissa, and Mariah’s son, Jayden; his sister Mary Ellen and her sons Jeff, David, and John; and his brother Charlie and his daughters Alissa and Gia, and many extended family and friends.
As Gordy takes this next journey, his family loves the thought of him once again meeting up with those who have gone before him, especially his son Steve, his mother Lena and father David, mother-in-law and father-in-law Annabelle and Henry; his uncle Fr. Lawrence Helmueller, his son-in-law Jay Brennan, and countless other family members and friends he loved.
Gordy’s family is so grateful for Dr. Jane Njeru, Dr. Terry Burns, and Dr. Elizabeth Yan; Katrina Shindelar, OT, Mike Walsh, PT, and the Mayo Clinic Hospice team, especially Sara Larson, RN; and Helen Kingsbury, MSW.
A mass to celebrate his life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 30, 2022, at St. Mary’s Assumption in Durand with Rev. Timothy Reither officiating. Burial will be in the church cemetery next to his son, Steve. Visitation will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday, April 29, 2022, at Rhiel Funeral Home in Durand and one hour prior to services at the church on Saturday.
Important research is being done to figure out how to better tackle these brain tumors. Gordy believed in supporting this research and contributed important cellular information to a current study at the Mayo Clinic. Donations to help this cause are encouraged and would be appreciated. Please support the Glioblastoma Foundation at glioblastomafoundation.org.
Rhiel Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Durand, is serving the family.