Lester “Les” Wilbert Mahaffay, born on June 11, 1942, to Lester Frank and Mary Margaret (Jaros) Mahaffay in Joliet, Illinois, died at his home in Monona, Wisconsin, and joined his Lord on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. To the finale of his earthly life and the prelude of his eternal one, he brought his musician’s sense of timing, taking his last breaths as the birds began to sing.
Blessed with nurturing parents and a loving, adventuresome sister, Les grew up creating mischief in the Palos Park Forest Preserve, attending Carl Sandburg High School, and learning to play tuba. Les attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he met Cheryl Diane Erickson, who played tenor saxophone. They fell in love in 1961, during the concert band’s epic tour of Norway and Europe. They were married for 55 wonderful years, and all who saw them together knew that Cheryl was the love of his life. They had four daughters, Lara (deceased), Emily, Caryn, and Alyssa.
Les was steadfastly devoted to family, friends, church, and community. Baptized at Palos Park Presbyterian Church on Aug. 2, 1942, and confirmed in his faith at Luther College in 1964, Les used his talents to God’s glory through service to others. As a secondary school band director, he instilled in his students a love of music and education, and was especially proud that his grandchildren share this love.
Les and Cheryl were patrons of arts and education throughout their lives, attending concerts, operas, and lectures, and embarking on travels that further informed their academic and spiritual lives. His children and sons-in-law loved to talk with him about what he and Cheryl learned, and the importance of being good stewards of the earth.
Les is survived by his beloved family: wife, Cheryl; daughters, Emily (David Gibson), Caryn (Chris Sundberg), and Alyssa (Eric Ostlund); grandchildren, Laura, Elizabeth, and Benjamin Gibson; sister, Leah; niece, Sarah, and nephew, Matthew Imwalle; and brother-in-law, Greg Erickson.
A Celebration of Life will be held at St. Stepehen’s Lutheran Church, 5700 Pheasant Hill Road, Monona, on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, with times to be determined. For service times and to make online condolences, please visit www.gundersonfh.com. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lutheran World Relief.