NOTE: This article has been in process for too long! We technically said "goodbye" to Gary in August 2021, yet we're still finding out just how much he did. We miss you everyday, Gary! – The OC Communication Team
“I have so many good memories,” Gary says, “especially memories of the good old days of camp meetings past. Until I was 6 years old, my family attended the annual 10-day Gladstone Camp Meeting. I remember staying in a camper by Oatfield Road, then later we had a cabin on the left side of the road going up the hill to where now there is a caretaker's house. I remember the old grocery store that stood where the Holden Center is now, with the ice shack out front where you could get blocks of ice for your ice box. And, of course, the masses of people all over campus. Good memories.”
Everyone has a Gary story. Tales of how Gary saved them from embarrassment. How he helped fix a computer. How he transformed a poor Powerpoint into a masterpiece. How he listened, understood, and provided just the right connecting cable. How Gary, quietly, adjusted the backdrop, moved the cameras, and fixed problems before the rest of us even noticed something was breaking. How he designed three different generations of websites for the conference, for departments, schools, and churches. How he worked behind the scenes to make us look better than we deserved.
Ask Gary about his best memories, and he’ll talk about camp meetings, especially how much fun he has had working with the Hispanic pastors and volunteers. Then he’ll go quiet for a minute, dreaming back through the best days, remembering people he’s worked with. When he speaks, there might be a catch in his voice. “I’m especially thankful for the wonderful volunteers I worked with at so many different events. What a pleasure!”
To connect with Gary was to experience calm. Kind. Courteous. Patient. Focused. Wise. Willing. Able.
Gary’s door has always been open, and he listened with understanding and calm. He assuaged fears, settled us down, focused us toward the better. He also modeled the importance of scheduling wisely so that there would always be quality time for family. We all felt safer with him working beside us.
Gary has a unique ability to see around corners, to anticipate problems and propose workable solutions. When the office moved from SE 97th Ave. in Clackamas, a dumpster was brought in for departments to purge unneeded items before moving. Gary happened to see some old film reels in the 40-foot dumpster and looked through them. Most were of “stop smoking” classes from the early 80’s, but the one that caught his eye was an old round steel case. Inside the case was a label identifying this as footage of 1938 Gladstone Camp Meeting! “That was way back when we’d used the campgrounds for only 8 years,” he says. “I had that old reel digitized.”
Gary is a professional photographer and found many ways to use that skill in his work. He photographed and videoed everything that was going on in the conference. Pathfinder and youth events such as TLT trainings, Pathfinder fairs, Pathfinder Snow Camp at Big Lake, teen events such as rock climbing and canoeing, Hispanic ministries events, children’s ministries trainings, women’s retreats at Eagle Crest, risk management trainings, Ministerial events for pastors, Education events, four constituency sessions, and 16 Gladstone Camp Meetings!
When Gary chose to leave conference employment to join his wife, Annette’s, web development company, the office staff held a farewell lunch for him out under the Gladstone oaks. Conference president Dan Linrud described his experience of working with Gary. “Gary, for me, is a wonderful example of professional excellence. Gary is a team player, always there to help all of us lift together as one. Gary has always given his all, assuring that others received only the very best from our Conference. His approach to communication has led the way for quality across the North American Division. Gary, you are a tremendous friend, a blessing to everyone who has had the privilege of serving with you. You made us better. We are going to miss you!”
After an hour of sharing memories, laughter, and good food, Dave Schwinghammer, Conference Executive Secretary, offered this prayer of blessing over our good friend.
“Lord, when you formed each of us you knew what gifts and blessings we would need to serve well. You also knew that in the tapestry of life, we would come to this moment in time, a time of celebration and sadness. For seventeen years you have guided Gary as your servant here in the Oregon Conference, and we praise you for how you have used his gifts to bless us in the office while also touching the lives of so many others. We are sad to let him go, yet we celebrate the many ways we have seen you work through him. Now we pray for your continued blessing in his life, that you will anoint his steps in ways that will lead to an even greater celebration with you in your heavenly welcome rooms. Thank you for allowing us the blessing of these 17 years with Gary. You have helped us see Jesus more clearly. Amen”
It was hard to find photos of Gary, he was so often behind the camera rather than in front of it. We found a few though!
Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.