Dr. Mark Gilderhus, a retired emeritus professor of history, is being remembered as a “fabulous professor, wonderful mentor and an exceptional human.”
Dr. Gilderhus, 73, died at home in Fort Collins, Colo. on Jan. 22 of liver cancer. He was married to Nancy Gilderhus and they have two daughters.
“I think the thing he was most proud of in his life were his daughters,” his widow, Nancy Gilderhus, said. “He had a tremendous influence on them; they were the frosting on the cake. Second would be his grandchildren. And third would be his career and his accomplishments there at [TCU].”
Dr. Gilderhus held the Lyndon Baines Johnson Chair for history at TCU from 1997 until his retirement in 2010. He authored a number of books and articles.
Dr. Gilderhus also taught at Colorado State University for 29 years.
A lover of cowboy movies and music, especially jazz and blues, Dr. Gilderhus was also named a “Norwegian blues shouter,” Nancy Gilderhus said.
One of Nancy Gilderhus’ favorite memories of her husband was the night they saw Gloria Hardiman, a famous blues singer.
“She called him up on stage and he got to sing with her,” she said. “From then on he referred to himself as the only Norwegian blues shouter in the country.”
Dr. Gilderhus was known for his sense of compassion and humor, his wife said.
“He’s one of the funniest men I’ve never known, he could crack me up almost every morning,” Nancy Gilderhus said.
Dr. Dana Cooper, associate professor in history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches,Texas studied with Dr. Gilderhus at TCU. He was her adviser at TCU when she was earning her doctorate.
“It was so neat to study with someone who was so big in the field,” Cooper said.
Cooper said she learned a lot from him as a historian, but even more about life from him as a mentor.
“He was exceptional,” she said.
She said Dr. Gilderhus cared about her as a successful student, but even more as a person.
Cooper, who cried softly as she talked about Dr. Gilderhus, said they always talked about their respective families.
“He spoke freely with me about family and how to make it work,” she said. “It was interesting for a male to talk about those things.”
He talked frequently of his wife and his daughters, Cooper said. He knew what mattered in life, and that was his family.
“Nothing matters in life if you neglect your family in the process,” Dr. Gilderhus said to Cooper.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy Gilderhus, and their two daughters, Kirsten Gilderhus and Lesley Jones, all of Fort Collins. He is also survived by his three grandchildren Della Fisher, and Morgan and Jake Jones, and his sister, Susan Zakeer.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Feb. 21 in Fort Collins at 3:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Center. Cooper said plans include a jazz band and that Nancy Gilderhus wants to make it a happy occasion for everyone.