When Debra and I were married in February 1987, the minister who performed the ceremony was Gary D. Smith. Debra had met Gary when he taught for a short time at CSU Sacramento, and since neither of us was a regular church-goer, she asked him to perform the ceremony. He met with us and spoke to us on several occasions before the wedding - at the time, Debra's mother and grandmother were not entirely sold on the concept of having me as a son-in-law (although I won them over in a fairly short amount of time) - and even then he struck me as a man who was wise beyond his years.
On the night of the wedding rehearsal, Gary and his wife Carol joined us for dinner. My entire family was there, as was my best man Craig and his wife Becky. I'll never forget something that Gary said that night, because it demonstrated that in addition to being a devout man, he was a man of good humor. He began talking about a trip that he and Carol had just made to the Holy Land, and just as I was beginning to wonder what life lesson might come next, it became clear that he was talking about a trip to Graceland. Now that's my kind of minister.
If memory serves, we saw Gary only one time after the wedding; when we attended church one Sunday at his parish in Carmichael. Shortly after that he left California, and we never spoke to him again. From time to time, as the years went by and we had kids, got older and presumably wiser, we would try to track him down, but just try Googling "Gary Smith" some time and see what happens. We'd give up, and then a couple of years later, we'd try again, but always to no avail.
A couple of days ago, Debra was going through some documents in preparation for son #1's departure for college in August, and found something with Gary's full name - "Rev. Gary D. Smith" - on it. Figuring there was nothing to lose, she Googled that name, and sure enough, for the first time, something came up.
It was Gary's obituary. He was killed in an automobile accident in 2003.
Reading his obituary, it's easy to see that Gary was an extraordinary man:
- as a teenager, worked with disadvantaged youth in his neighborhood.
- graduated from Stanford University in three years.
- obtained a Masters of Divinity degree.
- served as the Minister of several churches, in several states.
- earned a doctorate degree in Philosophy.
- served in the Naval reserves, and as a Chaplain during Desert Storm.
- became a professor of anatomy and physiology.
And, last but certainly not least, a member of the Harley Owners Group.
We never got that chance to thank Gary again, but I want to do so now by paying this tribute to him.
And to his family, should any of them ever stumble by accident across this post - you don't need me to tell you what an extraordinary man he was; you know it well. Just know that Debra and I will always remember him, for being with us on one of the most special days of our lives.
Thank you, Gary.