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Paul Gambaiana

Paul James Gambaiana, 96, passed away on Thursday, July 26 at Hillcrest Care Center in Hawarden following a brief illness. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, August 1 at 10:30 a.m. at United Methodist Church in Hawarden, IA, with Pastor Barb Joy officiating. Gravesite service and burial will follow at Eden Cemetery in Hudson, SD with military rites. Visitation with the family present will be held on Tuesday, July 31st from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a prayer service following at 7:00 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Hawarden. Porter Funeral Home of Hawarden is assisting the family with arrangements. Condolences may be left for the family at www.porterfuneralhomes.com.

Paul Gambaiana was born on October 14, 1921 to Alfonso and Santa Maria (Dinelli) Gambaiana in Plainfield, IA, the youngest of 11 children. He was raised on the Willow Lawn farm west of Waverly, IA. Like so many of his generation who lived through the Depression, Paul learned the value of hard work, how to be thrifty and perseverance. These were characteristics that he demonstrated in his life and instilled in his children.

He graduated from Waverly High School in 1938 and then enrolled at the University of Iowa. With the onset of World War II, Paul joined the Air Force’s Officer Training School and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and a co-pilot on a B-17 bomber. From an airbase in England, Paul and his crew conducted several bombing raids on select targets in Germany. On April 24, 1944, while co-piloting the B-17 “Miss Patricia” Paul and his crew received fighter and flak damage and were forced to land in Switzerland.

After being held as internees for several months, Paul and his navigator made a courageous attempt to escape and were caught at the French border. They were sent to the notorious Swiss punishment camp Wauwilermoos, where they endured harsh treatment until being released on a prisoner exchange in 1945.

In April of 2014, almost 70 years after his capture, Paul and 161 other airmen held at Wauwilermoos were awarded the Prisoner of War Medal. He was among eight living airmen who attended ceremonies at The Pentagon.

Following military service, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Northern Iowa and launched a long and impactful teaching career as a high school science instructor. Paul’s career started in 1947 at Chamberlain, SD and two years later accepted a similar position at Hawarden High School. There, he immediately became smitten with the high school secretary, Dixie Lou Smith, and they were married on December 28, 1950.

To this union eight children were born: Anne (James) Jennings of Mountain View, OK; Steve (Kris) Gambaiana of Omaha, NE; Tom Gambaiana of San Antonio, TX; Sue (Linn) Lovin of Albert City, IA; Kathy (Bill) McCabe of Storm Lake, IA; Mary Margaret (Lyle) Hamstra of Sioux City, IA; Matt (June) Gambaiana of LeMars, IA and Mark (Robin) Gambaiana of Des Moines, IA. The Gambaiana family had a West Sioux graduate each year from 1970 through 1978 with the exception of one year.

At West Sioux, Paul’s teaching career spanned six decades (1949-1991) and he along with the late Elwood “Whitey” Iverson were the cornerstones of the faculty for many years. He taught literally thousands of West Sioux graduates through science, chemistry, physics and math classes. Repetition and attention to detail while making the subject matter relevant and fun were his classroom hallmarks. His influence on his students is immeasurable. Paul also spent many years as a driver’s education instructor during the summer and girls golf coach during the spring, leading two teams to state tournament action. Amid a busy schedule, he took evening and weekend classes to complete a master’s degree from the University of South Dakota and taught science courses at Sioux Empire College in Hawarden for many years.

In retirement, Paul enjoyed spending time at the Smith farm in Lincoln County, SD; gardening, traveling to visit his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, sporting events, and spending time relaxing on the porch at their 11th Street home in Hawarden, where they lived for 56 years. Affectionately known as “Papa G” by family and friends, Paul loved his family and treasured the annual family Thanksgiving get together at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City for two decades.

Left to cherish his memory and example are his wife of 68 years, Dixie of Hawarden, his eight children, 19 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, seven brothers and three sisters.


5:00 PM - 7:00 PM ,Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Hawarden United Methodist Church
803 13th Street Hawarden, Iowa, Sioux 51023

Prayer Service

7:00 PM ,Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Hawarden United Methodist Church
803 13th Street Hawarden, Iowa, Sioux 51023

Funeral Service

10:30 AM ,Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Hawarden United Methodist Church
803 13th Street Hawarden, Iowa, Sioux 51023

Funeral Service

10:30 AM ,Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Hawarden United Methodist Church
803 13th Street Hawarden, Iowa, Sioux 51023

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Bob McCool has sent this Expressions of Sympathy card.

Bob McCool Aug 6 2018 12:00 AM

My drivers ed instructor - August 4, 2018
Posted: August 4, 2018 | Last Revised: August 4, 2018

Loved driving with Mr. Gambaiana, he never laughed out loud, even when you knew he wanted to. He gave me one of the biggest complements in high school- he fell asleep as we were coming down highway 12 back to school when I was driving. Great guy.

Life Story Aug 4 2018 12:00 AM

Mark, Robin and Family,

We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to you and your entire family on the passing of your dad Mark. The obituary was a great tribute to him and all of the lives he touched through his long teaching career. We will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

Richard Clarahan Aug 2 2018 12:00 AM

Mr. Gambaiana was one of my best and favorite teachers at West Sioux. His laugh and ability to make learning fun will be remembered by so many. My sympathy to your family. I know how greatly he will be missed by you all.

Peg Juffer Jul 31 2018 12:00 AM

We are saddened to hear about the loss of Papa G. What a great life that he lived! A wonderful wife and family that he loved dearly. Could not ask for a better legacy! Our sympathy to his family! Simply remember how great of an example he was.

Mike and Arlys Cauwels Jul 30 2018 12:00 AM

Dixie & Family:
It is with great sadness as well as pride, that we extend our deepest sympathy to you and all of the Gambaiana family and "clan" in the loss of Paul.

Having known Paul personally as an instructor, family man/Dad to all of your children and my classmate, as well as knowing him as the honorable and highly decorated and respected veteran, I feel the loss of this wonderful person, yet am so very, very thankful that God gave me this opportunity to be a part of his life whether it be in the classroom, walking the halls of West Sioux, enjoying his so healthy and hearty laughter or just meeting him on the street.

I feel so grateful for this privilege and I know he will be deeply missed by you and your entire family.

May God grant you peace, comfort and understanding in the days ahead and may He continue to bless you and each and everyone of your children and their families.

Rest in peace, "Papa G".

Rodd (WSHS-Class of 1975) and Gwen Holtkamp,

Primghar, Iowa

Rodd & Gwen Holtkamp Jul 30 2018 12:00 AM

What an extraordinary ordinary man. I feel lucky to have known him as a teacher and a neighbor and father to my girlfriends growing up. I know his family feels fortunate to have had him in their lives for so long. My deepest sympathies on your loss.

Jane (Slife) Noble Jul 29 2018 12:00 AM

Paul was a calm and loving uncle and always had a smile on his face. He was an amazing person throughout his life, which is so clearly portrayed in his obituary My coundolescense to Aunt Dixie and all of my cousins and their families.

Dianne (Britzmann) Thompson Jul 29 2018 12:00 AM

Mark and Robin and families, Our sympathy is with you at this time. May God surround you with his love. The obituary was a great tribute. Carla and Jess

Carla Johnson Jul 29 2018 12:00 AM

He was my high school math teacher and he had the patience of Job in that capacity. A wonderful man who will be missed. I never knew all the details of his military life and thank the family for adding it to his obit.

LuAnne Thorpe Jul 28 2018 12:00 AM

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