Obituary for Roberta Gelatt

sign guestbook

Image of
Roberta (Kaplan) Gelatt, of La Crosse, died Saturday, August 25, 2018, at her home, surrounded by her family. The eldest of three daughters, Roberta was born in 1947 in Milwaukee to Hy and Lillian Kaplan. She grew up in La Crosse and graduated from Central High School in 1965. After earning a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969, she married her high school classmate, and lifelong husband, Charles Daniel (Dan) Gelatt, Jr. They moved together to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Roberta worked as department secretary for Harvard’s Department of Psychology and Public Practice. After encouragement from a professor there, she applied to the Graduate School of Education, earning her Ed.D. in 1981, specializing in reading education for children with learning disabilities.
Roberta and Dan moved back to La Crosse in 1982, where Roberta devoted herself to raising her two daughters and to the community. Roberta served on numerous local boards, including the United Fund for Arts and Humanities, the Public Education Foundation, and the Franciscan Spirituality Center. She was the first female President of La Crosse’s synagogue, Congregation Sons of Abraham. She was a board member of the La Crosse Community Foundation, where she and fellow board member Signe Schroeder learned that most philanthropy never reached women and children. Together, they created the La Crosse Women’s Fund in 1998, dedicated to enriching the lives of women and girls in La Crosse. For this and other efforts, Roberta was awarded the Roberta Zurn Women in Leadership Award by the Foundation in 2008. Roberta was also a part of the committee that advocated to bring the Healthy Families program to La Crosse, and served on the board of the Family and Children’s Center, which runs the program.
Outside of her community commitments, Roberta built a strong network of friends who shared her diverse interests. Her life-long practice of writing short stories and poems was founded on a childhood success, winning a banana jingle writing contest. She was later a dedicated member of the La Crosse Area Women Writers Ink. She was a formidable, strategic player in the women’s doubles tennis circuit. She honed her investment skills as a member of the Mississippi Gamblers investment club. She and Dan could often be found waltzing and tangoing around the dance floors of La Crosse. Her carefully-tended garden was always filled with a rainbow of flowers. She was a devoted yoga practitioner, long before yoga went mainstream, and earned her certification in T’ai Chi Chih. And she taught mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques to people with chronic pain at Gundersen Clinic. She also turned to Pilates, which kept her body strong through bouts of chemotherapy and radiation, and liked to take walks around the mall in the winter and around the neighborhood in the summer to admire neighbors’ gardens.
Roberta was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her husband of 49 years, her daughters Julia and Andrea (Elie), her granddaughter Mira, her sisters Debra (Mark) Udey and Barbara (Allan) Kenyon, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, August 28 at Congregation Sons of Abraham (1820 Main St, La Crosse, Wisconsin), with visitation at 10 a.m.
Memorials may be given to the La Crosse Women’s Fund or the Family and Children’s Center.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at