On Sunday, February 6th, 2005, friend of 20 years, Gary Garbrecht collapsed while playing golf with his son, Bart and his doctor. Despite great efforts to revive him, Gary suddenly left us following a massive heart attack.
Gary was an absolute and unequivocable legend in the world of marine high performance. He spent his entire life involved in just about every aspect of marine speed. He made many friends and certainly some enemies as well, as anyone who is dedicated, intentional and devoted to his beliefs like Gary always was. One of my father's favorite old quotes was one that Gary had great appreciation for: "Often disliked, seldom misunderstood."
He was harsh and severe when he deemed it necessary, but did not hold PERSONAL grudges towards those of true talent when the source of the disagreement was from BUSINESS. Very few people can separate the two, but damn few people had the ability to assemble folks of great skill and herd them as a team to 'top of the pile' championships and accomplishments like Gary did throughout his entire life. He earned every penny he made and every title he gained. He never settled for almost good enough. He knew nothing to reach for but true excellence.
It has been my experience, that those who have negative things to say about Gary were the ones who fell short of expectations themselves, his or their own. It is always easier for people of this hue to blame their shortfalls on somebody else... and why not the manager with the loudest voice? That would indeed be Gary. It took me quite awhile to realize that his ability to organize and manage was his greatest gift, and one which surpassed anybody else I have known since. The depth of his personality extended far beneath the sometimes gruff exterior.
If you worked with him, you sure got more than one ass chewing and likely deserved each you received. NO ONE knew better than Gary Garbrecht that true perfection is not ever achievable, but he moved his "team" closer than the others to real perfection by striving for excellence on EVERY single occasion. That is how his amazing history of achievement came to fruition... it didn't just happen, he MADE it happen. He never took on any project or goal that he did not have a clear vision of what and how he was going to do. Criticism of his style or approach left him completely undaunted, and his results proved his methods to be valid.
He was the consumate and overt "Conductor". He had an astonishing ability to read an individual and figure out all the little buttons to push, at the right time and in the right sequence, to stimulate that person to do things at a level they themselves never knew was inside of them. I don't think that to be a bad thing, but a quality so rare, with huge potential to achieve as he demonstrated again and again.
Gary had a tremendous personal life and side to him also, one that very, very few knew. I am so proud to say I was privelaged and honored to be allowed insight into that private chapter. He dearly loved his wife, children, grandchildren and REAL friends. He was active, interested and most of all INFORMED politically. He had deep conviction and belief in God, country, values and a strong work ethic. He taught and methodically conveyed those values to his children. He always saw much more than he necessarily chose to discuss. He was a giant man with ramifications far beyond any justice that a simplistic obituary could do right by. Not many knew much about that slice of Gary Donald Garbrecht... because he didn't see any need for everybody to know. Just the ones that counted to him. In the last eight years or so, we rarely discussed business, but chose to speak of things we referred to as "more important" like family and the direction of this world.
The last ten days before Gary's unforeseen passing, we exchanged something like six e-mails (there were some politics to be discussed!). He cautioned me in one to "take time to stop and smell the roses"! If you knew him, this was something you might have been as blindsided by as I was, given his lifelong status as a true 'workaholic'.
I had responded referencing a new friend I had met via the Internet. This amazing gentleman once was a photographer for Shirley Muldowney and had spent the last 28 years in a wheelchair as a quadraplegic following an ultralight crash. I also told him of a couple of backcountry snowmobiling adventures I had in fact taken personal time to enjoy, just to show him I was trying to 'smell a rose' or two!
Perhaps you will get a momentary glimpse of the depth of this man's genuine heart by reading his response:
"Hi Howard,Sounds like you have found an interesting friend with a lot of performance blood in common. It seems like the guys that are in such a state tend to get far more out of life than some of the healthy guys that can't seem to enjoy anything other than feeling sorry for themselves. Lots to learn from these fellows if you take the time to listen carefully!I can picture that blast across the virgin snow and almost feel the sled coming up and floating on the cushion of air and snow mist as the drag goes away and the speed comes on. What a rush that used to be and I envy you for being in a position to still reap the highs that so few can ever experience, much less understand.Let 'er eat!G"
There will be an eternal hole in my heart and an empty space there where the "bigger than life" person that made up Gary Garbrecht once resided. How I do miss the option to just talk with Gary about the item of the day.
A tip of the hat, a bow of the head and a lifting of a glass to my greatest mentor.
Do not stand by my grave and weep,
I am not there.... I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am a diamond glint on snow.
I am the soft summer breeze.
I am the early winter freeze.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there...I did not die.