On Thursday, October 12, I had texted Wanda to see if we could talk about how Gary was doing. She texted me back in the evening with the news that Gary had passed. Ironically, Kathleen and I were at Notre Dame watching the Flin Flon Bombers. This brought back a flood of memories of being at Bomber games in the Whitney Forum. Gary sat just over from us and we would make a period-by-period analysis during intermission. The analysis often spilled over to the staffroom the next day at Creighton Community School.
When it came to hockey, Gary and I were generally on opposing teams. He was a forward and I usually played defense. Often, he would come down on me one-on-one always trying the same move – putting the puck between my skates without much success. We did go on a couple of road trips together to The Pas and Saskatoon. He was a fun guy to play with; he was always laughing and had a carefree attitude toward the game.
For many years, Gary and I would always have bets when it came to the Stanley Cup finals, usually $20 or a new hat. Gary didn’t have much success here either. The most satisfying win for me was when Boston and Vancouver met in the final. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to bet on Vancouver as Gary was a huge Boston Bruin fan. Much to my surprise, Gary said that he had to bet on Vancouver as they were a Canadian team. I was quite happy to take Boston. And you all know who won the Cup that year! Not Vancouver.
Those of you who have worked at Creighton Community School know that many crib games were played in the staffroom during recess, noon hour and after school. If you found yourself on a losing streak, you would search out Gary for what we termed the “Cluffer Cure”. Gary had some of the worst luck and was the person you could beat most often. He didn’t have a knack for cards but loved to play.
What Gary lacked in card skills, he made up for in his fishing skills. You may get opposition from Guy, but I think Gary was the best and most consistent person I fished with over the years. Fishing time with Gary was a wonderful experience. The adult beverages and mandatory cigars were carefully packed before the fishing gear. Boat bets were compulsory - first pickerel, most pickerel, last pickerel to round out the limit – each bet was worth a dollar from everybody in the boat. BUT, if you caught the first jack, you paid everyone a dollar. Gary earned the nickname of “Jack’, need I say more?
It became a fall tradition for us to spend an overnight at Gary’s cabin on Cranberry Lake for our annual “Trout Hunt”. After a successful weekend, Gary and Guy would take all the trout and smoke them. Everyone in the staffroom enjoyed the taste testing a few days later.
Gary had a dry sense of humour. He could say things with such a straight face and patiently wait for your reaction. His best performance was definitely at my retirement. He roasted me royally and kept the crowd in stitches. He compared me to taking his dog fishing – panting in anticipation of the trip while waiting on the step for him, and driving down the road with the window down and my tongue hanging out. This was the nature of our friendship – lots of teasing and heckling all done in good fun.
When I visited Gary this past summer, I told him my crib playing hadn’t been going so well and teased him that I needed a ‘Cluffer Cure’. That brought a smile to his face!
Gary, it was a pleasure to call you my friend. I’ll miss all our good times together. Rest in peace, good buddy.
Kathleen and Woody