Remembering my brother-in-law

Recently my brother-in-law Gary Haydel passed away. His wife and family asked in leu of flowers, donations could be made to Forged by Fire. I had the privilege of speaking at his mass this past Tuesday. This is what I said about him…

My earliest memory of Gary is when he pulled into our driveway to pick up my sister for a date. He drove a shiny Datsun 260Z car, and as a boy, that made him OK in my book! Their storybook romance seemed to take place in a whirlwind and before you knew it, we were at the Balcony for the wedding. For me, it was the first big wedding that I remember.

There is a saying that opposites attract… Beth, the quiet, soft spoken, beautiful young lady. Gary… Gary, just writing this, thinking about him, made me laugh! Gary had no filter! He could not stop talking and said what was exactly on his mind! But that also allowed not to know a stranger! You did not even need to make eye contact for Gary to start a conversation. What an incredible gift! Yes a gift!

I think that personality, that he must have inherited from his father, gave him an edge on people, he could disarm people in a blink of an eye. You could not help but like Gary, it made it easy to like him. His personality allowed him to live life to its fullest. Think about it, he experienced everything! Never a shy bone in his body. Everything he did, he was all in!

 Early in his life I know he loved to hike and ski on vacations. He loved getting away and experiencing life to its fullest. He taught me how to ski and run a dog sled team in New Orleans, not Alaska…

 If you hung out with Gary, you better study up, because he challenged you to know and truly understand what you were doing. I think of all the things that he collected, he dove in and sought out and found the best to collect, and he made friends, lifelong friends along the way. It is safe to say that He loved his hobbies / pursuits…

But those pursuits, hobbies paled to his true love, my sister… His life was complete when he finally met you, you were his second chance. You gave him meaning and purpose the day you said, “I do”. Beth, you completed him… His sole purpose after saying those words, were to provide for you. Everything that he did and endured, he did for you.

He was one of the hardest working men I have every met and if you knew my father, you know that I speak with some authority on this issue. Speaking of my father, Gary lost his father at an early age, and I think he loved hanging out with my dad, learning how to build things. Gary was a great son-in=law to my parents. They loved him. Back to his work ethic…

When I would work with Gary, I would stay at his house, he would get up early, like at 4 in the morning, light up a smoke, sit on the porch, drink a coke and then it was off to the bakery. That white ford panel van would make its trek from Sedgefield drive to the bakery 6/7 days a week. He wore his camo field jacket, had his Uzi slung over his shoulder and off to work we would go!

Once there, it was time to make king cakes and boy we made some king cakes. He would work right next to an oven the entire day, running the proofers and baking and icing king cakes until we were done. Once that was finished, he would head over to the cake department and ice cakes. There was no wasted time or movement. Now, he never, I mean never stopped talking, but he never stopped working. I would sit on the table and watch him ice cakes like no tomorrow or churn out roses like he was a robot. He was incredibly gifted and had a work ethic and business sense that was second to none. He was the heart and soul of that bakery.

Speaking of that, you my dear beautiful girls, you were his heart and soul. Jenny and Christine, the moment each of you arrived on the scene, your father would change. Your mother gave him the most incredible gifts by bringing you two into the world. He adored you. As Frankie Vali would sing, my eyes adored you, Gary, your father adored you… You became his world.

He never stopped loving you or as we all know, stopped talking about you. Your accomplishments are known throughout the entire world because your father new no strangers. Anyone Gary met, would have known that he had two of the most beautiful, extremely intelligent, and successful children every created. I find that beautiful.

Then you two expanded your family, you found your husbands and you gave your father his sons. Perry and Ben got the honor of caring for his most precious & prized possessions. And then, if it could not get any better, you girls gave him grandchildren… Your life is complete when you get to experience that type of love and family.

How will we remember Gary? A faithful son, a crazy brother, a good husband, a father who provided, an uncle, or just a good friend, a baker, a collector… a person who opened his life and home to anyone…

Typically, we might have one thing, I was fortunate to have so many fond memories and stories that I do not have time to share with you now, or that would appropriate for church…

But I will share my final thought. My last conversation with Gary as he prepared for this journey was so humbling for me. He spoke of being at peace with things in life, trusting God.

 I mean he always had a peace about him. No matter the stuff that was going on around him, I never witnessed him angry or lashing out, he always chose a higher road.

 In his final months here on this earth, he was truly at peace with the future. He knew and did not need a reminder that our time here is temporal, and that true peace comes from God, it is gift, we call it grace.

Gary understood about the love of God and the gift that God gave to us in His son Jesus. Now as a pastor, I could not have been more humbled and prouder to know that my friend had and held to that faith.

I know that I will remember Gary for that, not his collections or his accomplishments even though he had done so much and had a lot to be proud of, I will remember him for his faith and his love for family, Thank you Gary for allowing me to be part of your life and taking time to teach me instead of yelling or talking down to me. Love you…

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