Maplewood was not going to be overrun with junk, at least not under the watch of Louis Peter (Pete) Gilbert, who served as the city's mayor in 1967 and was on the City Council for six years before that. At a time when residents were concerned about gas station operators collecting exhausted and rusted-out vehicles, Gilbert refused to grant permits to two oil companies until they got their stations spruced up.
Gilbert knew a bit about how buildings should look. He was president of the family-owned Gilbert Construction Co., a firm that his great-grandfather started five generations ago in Norway and that his father continued in Minnesota. Under his leadership, Gilbert built everything from homes to banks to churches, plus auto dealerships and shopping centers across the Twin Cities. He also was a director of First Bank Payne Avenue in St. Paul, family members said.
"He had his fingers in a lot of things," said his sister, Mary Jane Moe, of St. Paul.
Gilbert died of natural causes Monday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 91.
He was born in Centerville and graduated in 1938 from St. Paul Johnson High School. His father was a contractor, and Gilbert worked with him during summers.
At age 22, he joined the Navy and was a member of the Seabees, the construction battalions that during World War II were responsible for building bases and airstrips and clearing jungles. He was stationed in the South Pacific, his sister said.
Gilbert teamed with contractors to build homes in St. Paul Park, the Blainebrook Entertainment Center in Blaine, the Midway Shopping Center in St. Paul and the Vadnais Heights Plaza Shopping Center, Moe said.
He served on the Maplewood City Council from 1961 to 1966, and as mayor in 1967, when the City Council chose him to finish a term vacated when then-Mayor Paul Kyyhkynen resigned and moved to Texas.
Described by family members as an ambitious and hard-working guy, Gilbert was a member of several clubs and organizations, including the Maplewood Lions Club, the Montlog Club and the Ancient Landmark Masonic Lodge No. 5. He also was chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Cement Masons of St. Paul.
And, wherever he went, he brought his repertoire of jokes, Moe said.
"He had a dry sense of humor and a stockpile of jokes," Moe said.
"He loved to tell jokes. Members would say, 'Tell us No. 49,' and he'd come up with an appropriate joke."
Gilbert enjoyed entertaining close friends and family members at his place on Balsam Lake in Wisconsin. In recent years, he had become a world traveler, visiting such places as Hawaii, Hong Kong and Sweden, said his wife, Jean, of Scottsdale. He also liked playing in charity golf events in the Scottsdale area, according to his stepson, Larry Egbert of Phoenix.
In addition to his wife, sister and stepson, Gilbert is survived by a son, Richard, of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; a daughter, Mary Lynn Byrne, of Tracy, Minn.; a stepdaughter, Lydia Lawrence, of Marietta, Ga.; a brother, William, of St. Paul; five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Covenant Church, 1280 Arcade St., St. Paul. Visitation will be 1 hour before services at the church.