Gary, age 83, passed away at his home in the early quiet morning hours of
July 13, 2016.
He was born in Genoa, Nebraska January 17, 1933, the son of Kenneth and
Bonnie WidIe. He graduated from high school in David City, Nebraska in 1950
where he was a football, basketball and pole vault athlete.
Soon after high school, Gary at age 17 began working for a railroad and after
many years of railroad mergers, the Burlington Northern Railroad became his
home away from home. Gary always had several "railroad" stories to tell.
One of his favorites was how stunned his supervisor was when he asked for a
day off to register for the draft. He always said "it was a lack of
communication" that caused the railroad to not realize his age at the time
they hired him. Later in life, Gary lovingly, laughingly and sometimes with
great frustration to those around him, was known as the "select"
communicator. During these early years on the railroad he learned to be a
telegrapher. Gary's speed and talent for this position would serve him well
travelling into what would be his next life experience.
Gary was drafted in 1953, and served his country during the Korean War as a
telegrapher until 1955. Many times, he dramatically recanted stories of the
boat ride overseas and his stay in Korea. After finishing his tour of duty he
completed business school and continued his railroad career, retiring in 1987
as a Vice President for the Burlington Northern Railroad.
On October 4, 1953 Gary married his high school sweetheart, Phyllis Blevins.
They became parents to three children, Kent, Laura and Lisa. Years later,
Gary and Phyllis divorced.
In 1987, soon after his first retirement, Gary was offered and accepted a
position in Missoula, Montana as Vice President of Operations at Montana
Rail Link. He has told stories of how exciting, fulfilling and proud he was to
be a part of the start-up of this new railroad. He was forever grateful for this
life changing opportunity to move to Missoula. Gary retired a second time
and placed railroading behind him in February 1989.
Gary looked forward to the time when he could do what he always believed
would be the perfect life, playing golf full time. An avid golfer, he joined a -
golf League at the University of Montana for men over 55. A good golfer, he
loved being on the course, living and loving Montana's lifestyle. He loved
Montana for 27 years.
In 1988 Gary met Loreen Strate. Two and a half years later, they were
married on October 26, 1991 in Couer D’ Alene, Id. Their marriage
relationship adventures began the wedding weekend when Loreen dropped
her wedding rings down the bathroom drain at the lakeside hotel where they
were staying. While arguing over which one of them might be the best
qualified plumber, Loreen finally convinced Gary it would not cost him one
dime if he allowed the hotel to manage the problem. He just knew he could
buy her a new set of rings for less than the plumbing bill. Many times they
laughed about the time when he told her he was going to ask their
accountant if he could claim as insulation all the layers of paint she kept
painting on the walls of their home.
Gary often wrote poems for Loreen and his love for her. He also wrote poems
about the Carousel in Caras Park and Montana, the state he loved. He even
wrote one about the sprinkling system he installed at their home that ended
"Here's to the prettiest woman I know, may she never drag another hose".
Another poem: I have a registered poodle and a thoroughbred Bashon Poodle
too. Our rabbit is a hybrid lops and our parakeet is heaven blue. Whiie
looking our animals over it is mighty plain to see that every critter in this
place is better bred than me.
Gary, was a soft spoken man and very quiet in his thoughts. We seldom saw
him without a smile and he never complained even as life dealt him so many
health struggles. We loved how he was always steady and calm. He had an
amazing sense of humor such as one time when asked how he was doing, he
replied "if I were anymore calm, I would be liquid". His rendition of KC Jones
was loved and he could recite Casey and the Bat at a moment's notice. His
hugs were always tight and we loved how he greeted us with "hi babe". He
often spoke of the years when he coached teenage boys in Lagrange, IL and
led their basketball team to its championship. He loved puttering in his
workshop building clocks, birdhouses and wood train sets. He built Loreen a
gazebo where she loved to sit with her tea when it rained. As time went by
and his body would not allow him to golf, he put together beautiful puzzles
including making frames and gave them away as gifts. Gary, you know, you
never lost your youth because it was so deep down inside you. We loved how
we could tease you about your combinations of food when preparing your
own. Family members loved playing golf with you and learned to tolerate
your rooster crows while playing tennis. Gary didn't always say he loved you
but when you weren't looking you might feel him behind you leaning,
nuzzling with his nose, or rubbing my back while watching the Olympic trials.
Other times, while watching me clean your room or helping you through the
day, sometimes I would hear you say "That's why I love you". Gary you were
my rock. You were such a blessing to me. You were the steady hand we ail
needed and appreciated. We miss you so terribly. Did I tell you today that I
love you? I will always love and miss you.
Gary is survived by his wife Loreen, Brother Jack (Mary) and sister Dawn
(Gary). Children Kent (Katie) Laura (Tim) and Lisa. Step children Eric (Paige)
Brad (Ellen) Shelley (Craig) and Kelly (Craig) Seven grandchildren, seven
step grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one step great-grandchild.
Cremation has taken place with the assistance of Sunset Funeral Home and an open house Memorial will be held August 27, 2016 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at 4908 Clearview Way, Missoula. Condolences for Gary’s family may be left at www.sunsetfuneralhomecemetery.com