The Rev. Dr. Max D. Gaebler died on September 7, 2018 at the age of 97.
Max was born on May 26, 1921 in Watertown, WI to Hans and Halen Gaebler. He graduated from Harvard College, MA in 1941 with an A.B., following which he earned his Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School, MA in 1944. He was later awarded two honorary degrees, the honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology from Starr King School for the Ministry, CA in 1968, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Meadville Lombard Theological School, IL in 1975.
Rev. Dr. Gaebler was ordained on March 5, 1944 by the First Parish in Cambridge, MA. Following his ordination, he worked for a year at the American Unitarian Association, as Minister to Students in the Greater Boston Area. From 1945 to 1948, he served the First Parish Church United in Westford, MA and then ministered to the Unitarian Church of Davenport, IA for four years until 1952. Then, over the next three and half decades, Rev. Dr. Gaebler carried out his ministry at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI. The First Unitarian Society of Madison honored him as their Emeritus Minister on his retirement in 1987. After his retirement, Rev. Dr. Gaebler carried out series of interim ministries at the following congregations: the Unitarian Meeting House, Norwood, South Australia (1987-1988); the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, OH (1991); and the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, Canada (1993-1994).
Rev. Dr. Gaebler carried out a great deal of service on behalf of the denomination. He served as a President for the Unitarian Ministers’ Association and as a member for the UUA Committee to Study Theological Education. In April 1962, he was elected as the first President of the Midwest Unitarian Universalist Conference. He also functioned as the continental co-chairman of the Unitarian Universalists for Black and White Action, and as a Trustee for the Meadville Theological School from 1966 to 1973. During the period of Unitarian Universalist merger, Rev. Dr. Gaebler served as Secretary for the Joint Interim Committee No. 5 and later as a member of the Advisory Committee on Ministerial Welfare to the UUA’s Department of Ministry.
Max was also a strong advocate of mental health. He served as the first President of Scott County Iowa Mental Hygiene Society and as a Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Scott County Mental Health Center. He was Director for the Wisconsin Welfare Council and Chairman for the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Dane County Juvenile Court. Max had a keen interest in the outdoors and was an enthusiastic Chicago White Sox fan.
Max is survived by his five children, David, Mary, John, Ralph, Helen, and their families; his sister in law; three nephews and their families; and his domestic partner Nancy Townsend and her family. He was predeceased by his wife Carolyn Gaebler, and his younger brother.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s own choosing as well as to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, 1848, University Ave., Madison, WI 53276 or The Friends of the Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison, WI 53705.
A Memorial Service will be held on Dec. 1, 2018 at the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 53705 (time to be decided).
Notes of condolences may be sent to The Family of Max Gaebler, 6225 Mineral Point Road, Apt. C-71, Madison, WI 53705.