Cover photo for Ernest W. Gustavson's Obituary
Ernest W. Gustavson Profile Photo
1944 Ernest 2024

Ernest W. Gustavson

August 10, 1944 — January 6, 2024



On January 6th, 2024, Ernest Walter Gustavson passed away peacefully at his home in Surprise, Arizona, at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Juliet Baughn Gustavson.


Along with his spouse, Ernest is survived by his son, Leif Gustavson (Kristen Yoder); and his daughter, Kirsten Gettings (Pete Gettings). Ernest had 4 grandchildren that fascinated and delighted him: Padgett and Flannery Gustavson; and Kiera and Aidan Gettings. He is also survived by his sister, Eleanor Holbein (Bill Holbein); stepsister Betsi Shays (Chris Shays); and stepbrother Bill deRaismes (Jill deRaismes). His older sister, Elaine Hart (Doug Hart), preceded Ernest in death.  


Ernest, known as “Gus” by friends and “Ernie” by family, was born in Rye, New York, to Walter Leroy and Evelyn Dakin Gustavson. He lived in Rye through 1965. By the time he was 12, it was clear that Gus wanted to be an entrepreneur. He began his long career of creating different businesses by repairing and reselling small gas engines. Gus graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School. While there he played trumpet in the marching band. College took him up north to Cornell University, where he gave engineering a go before realizing that Agricultural Economics was a better fit. In 1967 He graduated with an MBA. Gus and Juliet married in 1965 while he attended Cornell.


Upon graduating, he briefly dabbled in banking before entering the Navy during the Vietnam War. From 1967 to 1969 Gus served as a Supply Officer on the USS Radford destroyer - “Greyhound of the Pacific”. It was the oldest commissioned destroyer in the Navy at that time. He was honorably discharged at the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade with a deep and abiding love for being on terra firma.


After serving, Gus worked with CresapMcCormick & Paget as a mergers and acquisitions consultant. In 1976 he made the bold decision to move his family across the country to Mercer Island, Washington, to become a restaurant developer in both Washington State and Canada. Gus’s final move with Juliet was to Surprise, Arizona, in 2012, where they found a welcoming community in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise. He loved their new home and sharing it with his children and grandchildren.


Gus was passionate about conceptualizing, locating, building, and opening restaurants. He loved building things. He designed and built decorative bookshelves, inlaid sliding solid wood doors, and a doll house replete with trim work. He loved helping his children with their own house projects. Give him a project, and he was on it, channeling his architect grandfather.


Driving with his kids across country to and from their colleges was a true joy. Later in life, he developed a delight in cooking and became the Sunday night chef, including doing the dishes. He was energized by trying out new recipes and shared tips and tricks with his children. For many years, he was on a mission to find the best tiramisu. His favorite meal: filet mignon and fennel au gratin, hold the vegetables. It always started with a JD on the rocks.


Gus was fun and funny. He laughed easily, and friends and family laughed with him. He reveled in telling jokes. Most of them started with apologizing for the inappropriateness. Sudoku, crossword, and Jumble puzzles were an essential daily practice. A holdover from Navy days was ace-deuce, which he played with his children and grandchildren. Juliet and Gus had a fierce Scrabble weekend rivalry. Gus was a thoughtful and happy gift-giver. It gave him enormous pleasure to discover the perfect gift for someone.


Gus phrases and advice which will live on include: “You get what you pay for;” “What you can conceive, you can achieve;” “Why pay less when you can pay more;” “Anything can be solved with the liberal application of funds.” When it came to stereo equipment, heft equaled quality.” With matters of importance, never discuss anything of importance after 9pm. When the family was leaving almost anywhere, you could trust that Gus would loudly announce, “And so we bid a fond farewell to….” It also was not uncommon for Gus to politely excuse himself from his own dinner party to go to bed, requesting that guests lock the door on the way out.


In lieu of flowers or gifts, you can celebrate his life by giving to an organization that is meaningful to you. Celebration of Life information will be available. On this page. The family would would treasure your memories of Gus, Ernie, Dad, or Grandad…however you knew him. Please post them here..


And so we bid a fond farewell to a much-loved husband, father, Grandad, brother, uncle, and friend.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ernest W. Gustavson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, March 1, 2024

3:30 - 5:00 pm (Mountain (no DST) time)

17540 Ave of the Arts, Surprise, AZ 85378

17540 Avenue of the Arts, Surprise, AZ 85378

Celebration of Life for Ernest Walter Gustavson at Unitarian Universalist Church 17540 Ave of the Arts, Surprise, AZ 85378

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