Merlin “Boody’’ Gilbertson, the last surviving member of the 1940 Everett High boys’ basketball team still regarded as one of the most dominant in state history and later a three-year letterman in that sport for the Washington Huskies, died on May 23.
Merlin “Boody’’ Gilbertson, the last surviving member of the 1940 Everett High boys basketball team still regarded as one of the most dominant in state history and later a three-year letterman in that sport for the Washington Huskies, died on May 23.
Gilbertson, 92, died of pneumonia in Everett.
Gilbertson, who was not related to former UW football coach Keith Gilbertson, was born on a farm in Richland County, Wis., where a neighbor farmer gave him the nickname “Boody’’ when he was 3. But LeAnne Gilbertson, one of his four surviving children, said no one ever knew why.
“We don’t know where it came from,’’ she said. “There was just a different type of slang back then.’’
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His family moved to Everett when he was 3. He became a starter for an Everett team that went 29-0 and won the state title with one of the most dominant performances in tournament history, beating Oakville 64-19 in the championship game.
He then went on to play for coach Hec Edmundson at Washington, lettering on the 1942 and 1943 teams before heading off to fight in the Army in World War II. The 1943 UW team was the first in school history to advance to the NCAA tournament, finishing 24-7.
After the war, Gilbertson returned to UW and was a co-captain of the 1947 squad, the last coached by Edmundson, winning Most Inspirational Player honors.
Gilbertson then spent a year playing for the Seattle Athletics, a member of the Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League, regarded as one of the first pro basketball teams in city history.
The following year, the 1948-49 season, he played for Sheboygan of the National Basketball League, a precursor of the modern NBA (Sheboygan was a charter member of the NBA the following season). After averaging 3.9 points in 64 games for Sheboygan in the 1948-49 season, he returned to Everett to begin a career as a CPA.
Still, Everett historian Larry O’Donnell said Gilbertson had one last great basketball moment, saying he was in attendance when the Harlem Globetrotters came to Everett for a game in 1950 against local coaches. O’Donnell said Gilbertson was recruited to play on the Everett team and sank one of his patented two-handed set shots from far away to win the game in overtime.
“Boody was the hero of the day,’’ O’Donnell said.
Gilbertson, who was the youngest of eight children, is also survived by daughters Gayle Gilbertson and Dawn Steinruck (husband Jim), and son Brooks Gilbertson (wife Gracia).
A celebration of his life will be held June 9 at 4 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Everett.