On Sunday, January 24, Gilbert (Hox, Gib, Papa) W. Saylor Jr. passed away peacefully surrounded by his wife and children. He told them several times in his last days that he was blessed and happy. That’s how those that knew this man, who gave without asking anything in return, felt. It didn’t matter if he coached you, worked with you, helped you..he gave you what you needed, it wasn’t necessarily what you wanted, but he loved you with his actions and honesty. He left us all a legacy that can be found in the kids he cared about, the community he loved, and the family he built everywhere he went.
Gilbert, first known as Little Gibby when he was born on May 8th, 1949 to Gilbert Sr. and Elaine (Scott) on the busy street of New Miner. Quickly christened Hox by one of the customers at the family store and gas station his parents ran, his “willful” and busy nature was soon evident. Stories from his older sisters Geraldine (Heesch) and Jo (Fleming) describe his precocious behavior, while the stories from Edward and Jon highlight more of the humor, fun, and caregiving that became a staple of his whole life. His youngest sister Jacque simply loved her big brother Hox.
He behaved well on the bus to Rock View elementary, seeing that his parents were the bus drivers, and most of time at school - as long as someone didn’t do something stupid. Heattended and graduated from Necedah High School where he was active in sports, clubs, and getting into random yearbook photos. It was also in high school where he would meet Peggy Pritzl when she moved to Necedah in 1965. Hox’s behavior shaped up as he wanted to catch this lady’s eye. His wit and charm must have worked, and they began dating.
Following graduation Hox enrolled at UW-Stevens Point for a year..and then he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war. He and Peggy took a break after Hox’s first 6 months stationed in Japan, and when he returned home while serving his tour in Vietnam, he and Peggy were married on October 30th, 1971. He beat the odds and Grandpa Pritzl let him inside the house. Hox believed strongly in the ideals our country was founded on, and was outspoken in his distaste for the greed and selfishness he saw in today’s political leaders.
Hox returned to life with Peg in Necedah where they would live to this day. During and after 3 ½ years at UW La Crosse pursuing a degree in education, Hox delivered mail on the rural route, and made many happy with the Super Bubble and Tootsie Rolls he left in the mailbox. He continued work in the postal world when he became postmaster in Arkdale in 1988 until his retirement in 2005.
He worked to support his family that he loved dearly. Gilbert was first on the scene, and after losing Kristin as a baby, Kristoffer joined the family. Gayle, the Saylor sister, arrived next, and then Joshua. After a brief hiatus, the doors opened again and William entered the fold to complete the nuclear family that Hox would give his life for. The house was full of laughter and a lot of noise because it was also a home for cousins who needed a temporary stay, friends that were always welcome and all the relatives that came to birthday parties, holidays, and even to enjoy chicken butchering. Family isn’t bloodline it is a collection of people who care for each other Hox’s own kids weren’t his only priority, he used his summers and weekends to begin coaching youth baseball in the 1970’s while also refereeing basketball and umpiring baseball. He was a fixture at boys and girls sporting events, plays, and even musicals (He was crestfallen when the power went out in 1993). Over the years he coached any sport that needed help including boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. He was on the baseball and softball fields for almost 30 years as either a head or assistant coach. He had teams with great records and players with great numbers, but that’s not why he did it. Hox believed that the field was the extension of the classroom and it was a place to teach habits and skills that would serve kids as adults. Once you understood that he cared about you, he would tell you directly, and as most found out, he was usually right. Even though new health regulations may consider using a bat to stir community ‘swamp water’ not appropriate, hundreds of athletes have enjoyed this great tradition.
Hox was ever present in the Necedah community. In addition to the 40 years of officiating and coaching, he supported the food pantry, loved the library, and was a member of the VFW. But it was the school and the kids of our community that meant the most to him. He was a school board member for 26 years. And in that time, he never made a decision that he didn’t believe was best for the kids and the community. You could disagree with him, and if you asked, he would tell you. He was always proudest of his work to help build the new school. He knew the important impact that building would have on future generations.
Hox gave and supported the people and community he loved, but he saved his best for his family. His children enjoyed unique personal relationships that belonged only to them, and then he was blessed with 14 grandchildren. They will sadly lose the man that took them on trips to the cranberry marsh, taught them photography, hunting, fishing, sports, music, movies, woodworking, mechanics, and gardening. A true renaissance man who was always learning and sharing and giving whatever someone else needed, we are left with a huge ‘Hox-sized’ hole in our lives.
But that hole can be filled by the legacy he left. Giving selflessly, loving honestly in actions and words, learning and reading voraciously, laughing and finding humor everywhere, building family...is the mantle that his children, grandchildren, and those that knew him can pay forward. If we do, he will never really be gone.
Hox will follow his parents Gilbert and Elaine, his Uncle Bud, and his nephew Jeffrey Heesch. He is survived by his wife Peggy, his son Gil (Karla), Kris (Tracy), Gayle (Jason) Lassen, Josh (Anne), and Bill (Tracey) Dallapiazza. His grandchildren will miss him dearly: Veronica, Chacho, Miles, Isaac, Kyra, Adon, Marysta, Abram, Kynrik, Edea, Makenna, Oliver, Emmitt, and Arinda.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Saylor Family Educational Scholarship Trust at TheSaylors.com