Rev. Gary A. Westgard

Rev. Gary A. Westgard, age 82, of Yankton, South Dakota, died Saturday, November 12, 2022, at Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Funeral services will be 10:30 AM on Thursday, November 17, 2022 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Yankton, South Dakota, with Bishop Constanze Hagmaier, Reverend Jeff Otterman and Reverend Michael Jordan officiating.  The service will be livestreamed and can be viewed at the bottom of this obituary or at Burial will be in the Gayville Cemetery in Gayville, South Dakota.  Visitation is from 5:00 to 7:00 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Yankton with a prayer service at 7:00 PM.  Arrangements are under the direction of the Wintz & Ray Funeral Home in Yankton, South Dakota.  In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Pallbearers are Tom Lieffort, Mark Roozen, Todd Cowman, Troy Cowman, Bernie Hunhoff and Phil Lickei.

Rev. Gary A. Westgard was born August 6, 1940, in Rugby, North Dakota, to Albert and Beatrice (Olson) Westgard.  His family moved to Longview, Washington and Gary graduated from R. A. Long High School.  He then attended Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington; Luther Bible Institute in Issaquah, Washington; Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa; Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He married Vivian Weeks on December 16, 1967 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  After their marriage, Gary started his 35-year ministry at four congregations of the ELCA.  First at United Lutheran Church in Laurel, Nebraska, from 1969-1973; then Gayville/Bergen Lutheran Church in Gayville and Meckling, South Dakota from 1973-1980; then Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion, South Dakota from 1980-1994 and then Grace Lutheran Church in Watertown, South Dakota from 1995-2004.  After his retirement in 2004, he continued to serve in ministry when needed in various congregations of the South Dakota synod.  During this time, he also published two books, The Journey and the Grace in 2007 and At Break of Day in 2013, and wrote many articles for local newspapers.

Gary was a loving and faithful man who had a wonderful sense of humor and strong faith in the Lord.  He loved reading, rooting for the Twins and the Vikings and watching John Wayne movies, especially ones by his favorite director, John Ford. He loved his family most of all and will be greatly missed.

Survivors include his wife, Vivian Westgard of Yankton, South Dakota; two children: Christin (Dean) Woockman of Stanton, Nebraska and Joshua Westgard of College Park, Maryland; two grandsons: Benjamin and Finn Westgard and their mother, Lilla Kopár; three sisters: Beverly (David) Gruber of Ellensburg, Washington; Merna (Arne) Koerschgen of Elmira, Oregon; and Marie (Ken) Berry of Kalama, Washington; as well as many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents.





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35 response to "Rev. Gary A. Westgard"

  1. By: Elisa Mabina Posted: November 14, 2022

    Dear Aunt Vivian, Christin and Josh,
    My heart breaks with you right now as I know how hard it is to lose too soon someone you love so much. I’m glad you’re together and there for each other, and wish very much that I could join you. I will be with you in spirit until I can make the trip out there for a visit, hopefully very soon.

  2. By: Robert and Dorothy Patefield Posted: November 14, 2022

    He was a wonderful kind pastor when in Laurel. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  3. By: Paul Matchan Posted: November 14, 2022

    The most brilliant, loving, beautiful human being I have ever known. I will never forget his voice. I will never forget your Gary.

  4. By: Kathy Eide Posted: November 14, 2022

    My deepest sympathy.
    I enjoyed his time as our Pastor at Grace Lutheran in Watertown.
    Always a joy to see Gary & Vivian around Watertown. Such kind, wonderful people.
    Rest in Peace, Gary. You will be missed

  5. By: Karen Thompson Posted: November 14, 2022

    So sorry to hear this. My deepest sympathy to Vivian and family. I have great memories of your time in Laurel. A great pastor and a great friend.
    Karen Granquist Thompson

  6. By: Amy Sowers Posted: November 14, 2022

    Pastor Gary married us 27 years ago, did our brother in laws funeral 25 yrs ago and baptized two of our babies 24 and almost 19 yrs ago and I will always cherish the words he told us. We have those services recorded for our wedding and the funeral. He was such a kind, gentle, loving man and so thankful he was there for those special times and sad times! He came to our home after the loss of our brother in law and left us at peace with what had happened! May God bless you and your family during this difficult time. Deepest sympathy from our family!

  7. By: Ken Grenz Posted: November 14, 2022

    I regret learning from Kip Roozen of Gary’s death. As a neophyte pastor, I remember Gary’s warm collegiality, fun Bible studies, and Gary and congregation representatives waiting to wish me well on my last Sunday. I much appreciated Gary’s friendship. God speed to you, family, in your loss.

  8. By: Eugene and Leone Noeldner Posted: November 14, 2022

    Dear Vivian and family. Our sincere sympathy to you all. Gary was the most thoughtful and caring person. We enjoyed many good times together with you and Gary. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. Take care and please keep in touch. Love to all. Leone and Eugene Noeldner

  9. By: Barb Struwe Posted: November 14, 2022

    I only knew Pastor Westgard through his work at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, but his presence will stay with me forever. Every thought of him brings back the memories of his voice saying, “Be Jesus in the neighbor. “ What a role model. I am grateful for your life blessings and know that the Kingdom of Heaven is grateful also. ❤️

  10. By: Charlene Berke Posted: November 14, 2022

    It’s hard to know what to say during a difficult time like this, but hope you know you’re being thought about with special ❤️ love.
    With Deepest Sympathy

  11. By: Hope Okerlund Matchan Posted: November 14, 2022

    Dearest Vivian; Gary was an amazing man, whom we loved completely, totally, with our entire hearts. We love him so, and miss him greatly. Thank you Vivian, for sharing this magnificent man with the world. I am here, for whatever you may need, Vivian. With my love, Hope

  12. By: Lisa (Galvin) Floss Posted: November 14, 2022

    May the God of comfort, comfort you all . He was a gift to all who knew him. No eye has seen, no ear has heard no heart can imagine what God has prepared for those that love Him. (1Cor 2:9) He loved Jesus. He is home and fine but we grieve because of the loss. Laurel was blessed to have him and your family for a short time. Prayers and love will be with you in the days to come. So sorry to hear this.

  13. By: Paula Orthaus Posted: November 15, 2022

    Dear Westgard Family,
    We are saddened to hear of Pastor Gary’s passing. You are all very special to our family! We spent much time together at Grace Lutheran and LCCOR. Pastor Gary was a true humble man, his sermons were kind, loving, meaningful, honest, and true. We have very special memories. Thank you for sharing your life with us! Peace to you, Dear Vivian and family! God’s peace today and always. Love, Jeff and Paula Orthaus

  14. By: Dixie Swoboda Posted: November 15, 2022

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Pastor was such a great man. I enjoyed helping him at Makepeace and so happy he married my girls. My thoughts and prayers are with you at the tough time. Dixie Swoboda.

  15. By: Gary and Gerry Hagen Posted: November 15, 2022

    Gerry and I have fond memories going back to LBI in Seattle, to PLU and then to Luther Seminary. Gerry remembers getting to know your sister as a fellow seminary wife working at Despatch Oven who conspired the initial meeting with Gary at our apt. Well love blossomed enough for Gary to make a date with you and then soon marriage. We love you and know a hole in your heart will not be soon filled. May God bless you with loving memories of a well lived marriage. Love always, Gary and Gerry

  16. By: Terry & Lisa Ulrich Posted: November 15, 2022

    Vivian and family,
    We are so sorry for your loss of such a wonderful man. We have such wonderful memories of Gary at LCOOR in Watertown. His messages were always so meaningful and his voice–so calming. His lessons will also be remembered through his wonderful book. Know that we are thinking of you all and sending prayers of comfort. Love always, Terry & Lisa Ulrich

  17. By: Teresa Mikkelsen Posted: November 15, 2022

    Vivian, praying for you and your family.

  18. By: Arley K. Fadness Posted: November 15, 2022

    Just talked to Gary last week. Oh my. Gary’s gift of words and speech will be missed. His creative and poetic style
    has inspired many including me. Thanks. We wait for the resurrection.

  19. By: Nancy & Tedd Rieke Posted: November 15, 2022

    We are so sorry to hear of your loss Vivian – but so very happy for Gary who is with his Lord and Savior whom he served with his whole heart. God’s peace be with you and your family.

  20. By: Elvin and Alice Borg Posted: November 16, 2022

    We remember Gary from Waldorf College days and he went to LBI at the same time Elvin did. He was a man of faith then and so glad he was his whole life.

  21. By: Pam Raeder Posted: November 16, 2022

    Dear Westgard Family,
    Our thoughts are with you and all who knew and loved Gary. He will be missed. We at LCOOR enjoyed his smile, laugh, poetry and most of all his friendship. Gary was always willing to listen and to share his wisdom. He was one of the good guys!
    Pam and Al Raeder

  22. By: Chuck Sherman Posted: November 16, 2022

    The world is a little less fun with Gary not in it. Such a great person. I wish I could be at the funeral to give you a big hug Vivian. I truly admired Gary and so enjoyed his sense of humor.

  23. By: James and Patricia Doohen Posted: November 16, 2022

    Vivian and family, we are so sorry to hear of Gary’s passing. The years we were members of Trinity in Vermillion were made so meaningful by the kind of pastor Gary was.

  24. By: Jeanine Eide Posted: November 16, 2022

    My deepest sympathy to Vivian and family. Your in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. By: Peter Juba Posted: November 16, 2022

    taught us that all of us are children of God. Thanks Gary.

  26. By: Leisa Kolberg Posted: November 16, 2022

    I am so sorry for your loss. He touched so many lives and was so faith filled. He was instrumental in leading me to my faith. Prayers to you today and beyond today.

  27. By: Dennis and Bonnie Weippert Posted: November 16, 2022

    Our time together at LCOOR was so meaningful with Gary and Vivian. They will be missed by so many. God so blessed our family with Gary’s messages and friendship.
    Dennis and Bonnie Weippert

  28. By: James Boline Posted: November 16, 2022

    What an exemplary pastor and extraordinary human being. Thank you, God, for giving Gary Westgard to the world. Grace and peace to you Vivian, Christin, Josh, and family.

  29. By: Mindy Dietz Ehrke Posted: November 17, 2022

    We lost a great writer and preacher. He was kind and respectful to everyone. He will be missed. May God send you much comfort.

  30. By: Will and Geri Olsen Posted: November 17, 2022

    Vivian and family, we are really sorry we were not able to be in Yankton for the funeral. It was beautiful and meaningful for us just to listen. Gary was a man of faith and words of encouragement to all that he touched. He shared his faith and love for Christ in a caring way. He taught me as a Pastor friend how to listen to those who were servants of Christ who did not have much of a voice in our society. We so will miss his humor and love for life.
    Blessings, Will and Geri Olsen – Bozeman, Montana.

  31. By: Gary and Leigh Kuecker Posted: November 17, 2022

    Vivian and family, We are sorry to hear of your loss. Gary was a such a kind, patient and caring person. We always enjoyed his sermons; they were always from the heart and meaningful. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family during this sad time. Gary and Leigh Kuecker

  32. By: Jennifer Gustafson Posted: November 17, 2022

    Vivian, just seen that Gary is now enjoying Heaven! Our thoughts, prayers and love go to you and your family! Wally so enjoyed building your house in Watertown and the little stories Gary shared with us especially out at Joy’s. May God give you strength in the days ahead!
    Love and sympathy!
    Wally and Jennifer Gustafson

  33. By: Diane J Savoie Posted: November 18, 2022

    Vivian and family,
    Sending you my sympathy and the Lords comfort.

  34. By: Nancy Slostad Posted: November 18, 2022

    We were so sorry to hear of Gary’s passing. I always loved listening to his sermons and visiting with him. He had the most soothing voice. God bless Gary!

  35. By: Joel Hortness Posted: November 18, 2022

    Peever Lutheran had Gary as pulpit supply pastor numerous times. He had wonderful stories that he would tie into his sermons. I truly enjoyed him and thought he was a wonderful man.

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