Gilbert Woodrow Scharffs died at home from age-related causes on February 26, 2015, a few months shy of his 85th birthday, after a magnificent life filled with faith, love and service to others.
Gil was born on June 27, 1930, the eldest child of Fritz Carl and Gertrude Louise Barth Scharffs, who had each emigrated from Germany after World War I and met at an LDS Ward for German immigrants in Salt Lake City. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, as well as his younger sister, Virginia Rasmussen (married to Jack Rasmussen), and is survived by his sister Donna Waters Hunt and brother Joseph Scharffs (married to Marjorie).
Gil lived a rich life. After graduating from West High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in marketing at the University of Utah and a master's degree in advertising from New York University. He served in the Army during the Korean War, mostly safely behind a typewriter in Japan, and a mission to Germany, where he served as the editor for publications and in the mission presidency.
He began teaching in the Church Education System as a seminary teacher at his alma mater, West High School, and later earned a PhD in Religious Studies from Brigham Young University, writing a dissertation that was later published by Desert Book, "Mormonism in Germany." Gil taught briefly at the Institute of Religion at Arizona State, before beginning a long tenure at the Institute adjacent to the University of Utah. He taught there for 27 years, teaching generations of students in almost every imaginable area of church doctrine and history, including a stint as Director. Seldom was there an outing to the theatre or a restaurant where a fond former student would not come up to say hello and express gratitude.
Throughout his life, Gil fostered a great love of the written word. He published a number of other articles and books, including "The Truth About the Godmakers," "101 Reasons Why I Like to Go to Church," "The Missionary's Little Book of Answers," and "Mormons and Masons: Setting the Record Straight."
Meanwhile, his love of travel and teaching made him a popular BYU and LDS Travel Study tour guide to Church history sites, Europe and the Holy Land. In addition, for nearly 40 years he moonlighted as the editor and publisher of the concert program at the Utah Symphony, for years with the help of Virginia and Calvin.
He served faithfully in numerous church callings, including often as Gospel Doctrine teacher, as a Branch President and Bishop at the University of Utah, where he also served in a Stake Presidency, and later as Bishop of his longtime home ward, the East Millcreek 11th, where he lived from 1968 until his death.
In 1959 Gil married Laura Virginia Smith, daughter of Calvin and Lucile Smith, and granddaughter of President Joseph F. Smith, in the Salt Lake City Temple. Virginia was one of thirteen children who grew up on a farm on Redwood Road. Gil and Virginia had four children, Yvette Scharffs Ungricht (married to Albert Lon Ungricht, with children Andrew, Mary, Emilie, and Amy), Brett Gilbert Scharffs (married to Deirdre Mason Crane Scharffs, with children Elliot, Sophelia, and Ella), Lisa Scharffs Kasteler (who was married to David Kasteler, who died in 2011, with children Lauren, Maegan, and Spencer), Calvin Karl Scharffs (married to Cheri Branham Scharffs, with children Emma and Greyson). After forty years of marriage, Virginia died in 2000. Gil was very proud of his family, and was pleased to have three of his grandchildren serving missions at the end of his life, Elliot in Japan, Emilie in California, and Lauren in Florida).
In 2001 Gil married Judy Short in the Salt Lake Temple, and began a second (or perhaps it was third) act with an energy and enthusiasm that surprised many. He and Judy taught for several years at the BYU program in Nauvoo, and served a public affairs mission to Edinburgh, Scotland. They loved traveling and spending time with an impressive circle of friends and family. Gil is survived by Judy, who cared for him with great patience and love to the end. Judy thanks Wendy and Elizabeth and the other wonderful caregivers from Inspiration Hospice, who gently cared for Gil almost daily for over a year.
Over the past few years, Gil gradually slowed down, with a typical litany of physical challenges, small and large, and finally a relentless, quiet battle with Alzheimer's. In his decline, he could often be found working crossword puzzles in a favorite easy chair, resting peacefully, which seemed entirely appropriate after a lifetime of working so energetically.
The words could have been written for him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." (Matthew: 25:21) He leaves a legacy of love, service and faith that will be felt for generations.
The funeral service will be held on Tuesday, March 3rd at 11:00 a.m. at the East Mill Creek 11th Ward building, 2702 East Evergreen Ave (3535 S.), Salt Lake City. A viewing will be held at the Holbrook Mortuary, 3251 South 2300 East, on Monday, March 2nd, from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the church Tuesday morning 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. prior to the service. His burial will be in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Messages to the family can be posted at: www.HolbrookMortuary.com
Published by Deseret News on Mar. 1, 2015.