Hello to all of you. This is a room of people who loved Gary and because of this I love you all. I asked my friend, Claudia Springer, to come up here with me to pray for God to give me strength to say all that I want to say about my loving Gary, but if I can’t finish, and believe me, I will try very hard, Claudia will finish it for me.
Where do I begin, how do I begin to speak about my Gary. I begin by talking about all the wonderful things he has done for this world. Gary felt that he was in this world to make a difference. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, he was always trying to improve things. His favorite saying was from George Bernard Shaw, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
That, in a nutshell, defines Gary.
I have been thinking as far back as I could to remember when I noticed Gary’s desire to do good. The first that comes to mind was when he started with Habitat for Humanity. I remember lying in bed with him watching TV, seeing a commercial for Habitat and Gary saying, “You know, for the longest time I have been wanting to get involved with Habitat but I have never done anything about it. Tomorrow, I am going to look into this and see what I can do to get involved.” Well, you know that when Gary made up his mind to do something, that was it – he did it, and so his life long love for Habitat began. He got involved in the Jimmy Carter project in 1992. He met Jimmy Carter and his wife in this project and took a picture with Jimmy Carter, as you will see in the collage that my daughter, sister, niece and I put together for all of us to enjoy. He tells the story of how one day he heard this voice call out to him, “young man, can you help me a moment”, and you know Gary, anyone asks him can you help me, Gary is right there lending a hand, but to see President Jimmy Carter struggling to lift some construction material by himself, well, the boy scout in Gary of course jumped right into action and took over, like he always did. Gary worked full time for Habitat for Humanity right after Hurricane Andrew, and he loved those two years of his life.
Gary was always a true neighbor. Any neighbor could depend on Gary, no matter what the job was, to help. I remember when we lived on 114th Terrace, how the neighbors would come over on Saturdays or Sundays, because Gary always had his garage door open working on some project, to seek his advice on something – a plumbing problem, an electrical problem, whatever; Gary always had the answer for them and most of the time he stopped what he was doing and went over to the neighbor’s house and just did the job for them.
Chris Anderson and her son, Michael, come to mind. At such an early age (maybe 7 or 8) little Michael loved doing landscaping work. He would come over and visit with Gary and Gary would let him use his tools, with supervision, of course. When his parents gave Michael a riding lawn mover, he would come over to our house and ask Gary if he could mow our lawn.
And the Go Cart Gary had; he let the kids of the neighborhood ride that go cart up and down our street, until Izzy ran into our neighbor’s wall – oh the memories.
We had two widows on either side of our property, and when I could not find Gary, I knew he was either at Myra Norman’s house or at Sue Daisy’s house working on some project, and it wasn’t as if Myra or Sue would come over to ask him to help, he just had his weekly routine of going over to their houses and fixing something or telling them what they had to do to fix it, without them even asking for his advice. But that was Gary – he felt it was his job as their “adopted” son to take over and tell them what to do. Just recently, the Schlessingers, one of our old neighbors, came by our house to visit but also to ask for Gary’s advice on several things they wanted to do to their house, and there was Gary – he had the answers to all their questions.
After we moved to our current home, Gary did not change. He continued to help all his neighbors, Owen Parr and his brother – oh how he would kid with them. Owen would come by to ask a question, and there went Gary to see what needed to get done and just plain do it, and then come to me and explain what he did and how he did it. Our neighbors who just moved in from England, Teresa and Jerome, Dr. Ralph Aden and his dear wife- he helped them all.
Kids – Gary loved kids – but he especially loved to teach them, oh the lectures that would go on and on about history, how things were invented and how things worked - the vacations we took with our nieces and nephews – North Carolina, Washington DC, Orlando, Jacksonville – and everything was a learning experience – fruit picking – oh the fruit picking, blue berries and strawberries and apples, stopping at every little open market on the road to buy strawberries and oranges and peaches and dried fruit and nuts – and the Ethiopian restaurant we went with the kids in Washington DC where the food was so different but so good – my daughter and nieces and nephew to this day still talk about what a great experience that was. The boiled peanuts he would buy for my Mom because he knew she loved them. How he loved my Mom. It’s funny because Mom doesn’t speak too much English and Gary only spoke “food” Spanish (enough to order a good Cuban meal), but somehow they communicated, and he would tell me that he loved my Mom very much. And then there is Bradley, beautiful Bradley – the toys he would buy and Bradley loved – handyman tools, submarine, sour gummy worms – 3 lbs of them – and the precious times Bradley came over to play with Mr. Forman and see Mr. Forman’s fishies. These times were precious to Gary.
His love of fishing – he loved to tell the story of when we first starting dating and went sailfishing and we hooked 3 sailfish at the same time, and here Gary and I were running all over his 26’ Whitewater boat trying to bring in the fish, and here I am getting sea “sicker” by the minute. But I couldn’t show him I was weak, so I told him I was fine and as we are bringing in the sailfish, my head is over the railing just throwing up and reeling. And when we finished with the 3 sailfish, which we did bring in by the way, he wants to go back inland, but no I tell him I am all right, I feel better, let’s continue, and he concedes and so we put out the lines out again, and I start feeling sick again, and he just cut the lines and brought me back in. The fishing trips we went on, bone fishing, I could never catch a bone fish but Gary could, dolphin fishing, permit fishing, snapper and grouper fishing, night fishing for yellowtail – so many memories.
The stories he would tell me about his fishing trips with Gary Morris, Richard Johnson, Nick Kelly, Eddy Snow – he loved these guys. And recently he had been chartering fishing trips with Bouncer Smith and his crew; Bouncer and Gary had been friends for a long time but had not seen each other for a while – well they just picked up where they left off and became even closer. Gary would tell me about the hours they would spend telling stories to one another – funny life experiences, jokes. Gary used to tell me that he went fishing more for the time he spent with Bouncer and his fishing buddies than the actual fishing. Along the way, Gary got new fishing buddies: Jeff Springer, Paul Alcivar, Dale Palomino, Rick, Tom O, and many others I can’t seem to remember by name, but I know he loved these moments.
Jeff, the hours he spent with you talking and seeking your advice and the love you and Claudia showed Gary, I will never forget.
His Love of animals – Izzy and I have lost count of the many dogs that Gary found in the street and brought home. At first the story was that he had to rescue the poor dog, but that he would find a home for it, but then we would fall in love with the dog and could not part with it, and so another animal would be added to our family. There was a time when we owned 7 dogs, and it was really no big deal – now; we only have 4 dogs, 2 cats, 2 koi’s, and hundreds of African sickleds.
His love of food and cooking – from the moment we started our life together, Gary was the cook of the family – and what a gourmet cook he was. The meals that he would prepare everyday were always delicious. I remember Izzy as a little girl complaining once about “why couldn’t we eat like other families – her friends had pizza and macaroni and cheese and hot dogs for dinner, and we always had to have this fancy food.” And how he loved to entertain our friends and family; he just went all out and cooked up a storm, enough for an army. I think he learned that from his Mom because he told me so many stories of when he was a child and his Mom and the parties she gave and the cooking, and how the following morning Gary would wake up and run to the living room and kitchen area and start eating the leftovers.
The house projects he put himself and the family thru. Finally I convinced him to hire a contractor to do the additions he wanted done – Gary went thru 3 contractors until he finally met Mahonney, who had the patience and the good people that worked under him; they all knew how meticulous Gary was and what a pain he could be, but they all loved him – and Robert Pilla, our architect – Robert there are no words to thank you for all the patience and love you showed Gary.
And finally the love he had for his family – I left this for the last because this will be the toughest thing for me to speak of – and at the same time, it was the most important thing in his life – his family; his Mom and Dad, how he loved to call his Dad everyday and talk to him about important topics and silly topics. I used to tell him that he and his Dad had their own language, because they would make up words and talk in phrases, that I did not understand, and then his Mom would get on the phone and the three of them would spend time just kibitzing. How many times did I hear about the ducks that Gary and his brothers brought home by dropping a trail of bread crumbs until they reached their garage, and then closing the garage door to await the arrival of his parents who were greeted by squawking and bird mess. And the time that his brother Marc wakes Gary up to tell him that he burned down their neighbor’s fence; and Gary tells him to go back to sleep that he was just dreaming, but Marc comes back again and tells Gary that the fence is still gone, finally Gary gets up to convince Marc that it was just a dream, to find out that sure enough the neighbors fence was in ashes.
Josh, Gary loved you like the son he never had – He was so proud of all your accomplishments, but especially how you love and respect our daughter. I know you will continue to make him proud.
And the love for our daughter, Isabel. There was nothing in the world that Gary would not do for Isabel; the way he looked out after her, and the many, many good advices he gave her; everywhere he went, he would buy Izzy a little trinket or sweets (anywhere from gummy bears to starbust). Gary went to every school function, every softball game and took part in all her birthday parties especially when she was a little girl because he was a little boy himself. I could not have asked for a better or more devoted father.
And finally, the love he had for me. He would tell me that he loved me so much that sometimes it hurt. There was nothing that we did not do together – house projects, office work, errands, fishing; he was a romantic, with the flowers and gifts, for no occasion – just because he loved me. He loved to see me all dressed up, and would say that wherever we went, I was the most beautiful woman in the room, to which I would always reply, “Gary those are your eyes that see me that way.” His favorite saying was, “why would I look at a Cadillac when I have a Lamborghini.” I tried to dress like his Lamborghini today so he could be proud. Whomever Gary met, his first conversation was always how important his daughter and wife were to him and how he loved us, and how thankful he was that we were in his life. But in reality, it is Izzy and I who are thankful that God blessed us with Gary.
We all love you Dad, and we miss you so much. I desperately wish you were here so that I could tell you how much I love you. May God have you in his presence, and may you be in peace.
[Spoken but not written: "...And now I can cry."]