Gary’s involvement with firefighting began almost as soon as he was born; he was only four months old when his father joined the volunteer fire department in their neighborhood of Belltown. Gary’s father would later serve as fire chief‚ a position he would hold for eighteen years. Gary followed him into the department in 1968.
Gary served his department with great enthusiasm‚ and was elected to the rank of lieutenant in April 1975. In September of that same year‚ he was hired as one of Belltown’s small staff of career drivers. Gary finished his term as lieutenant and stepped aside to allow a younger member to rise up the ranks‚ since he was working full-time at the firehouse. In 1977‚ Gary married his high school sweetheart‚ Joanne. Gary and Joanne welcomed their daughter‚ Nicole‚ to the family in 1981.
Gary continued to advance professionally‚ becoming a fire marshal in 1979. In 1983‚ Gary was honored by his fellow firefighters‚ when he was awarded the department’s ‘Firefighter of the Year‚’ an award which he would win once more almost twenty years later in 2002. He was given another award in 1993 for saving the life of a child with a severe head injury. In 2004‚ Gary joined the rest of his fellow volunteer firefighters in receiving the Secretary of State’s Public Service Award.
During this time‚ the fire service was not Gary’s only community involvement. Gary was a steadfast supporter of the American Red Cross‚ including serving as an emergency blood courier‚ responding at all times of the day and night to shuttle blood from one hospital to another. Gary recruited friends and fellow firefighters to this job as well‚ often passing the pagers between one another to ensure coverage.
No matter what was going on‚ Gary was a fixture in the firehouse kitchen‚ cooking for ‘the boys‚’ as he called his fellow firefighters. Gary asked for no recognition for this work and rarely‚ if ever‚ attended the annual Christmas party where the awards were given out. In 2002‚ arrangements had to be made covertly with his wife to get him to stop by briefly‚ in order to give him his ‘Firefighter of the Year’ award.
In 2008‚ Gary retired as a career firefighter with 33 years of service. Just as he did before he was hired‚ Gary returned to active volunteer service after he retired. It was as a volunteer firefighter that Gary responded to his last call the night before he died. Gary’s legacy continues in Belltown‚ as his daughter‚ Nicole‚ serves as vice president‚ and his wife‚ Joanne‚ is now an associate member.