My broadcast friend Gary Engard passed away this week.
Gary was an engineer during most of my days at KLSY, but in the times since I left that building, we would only occasionally touch base. Every now and then, Gary and another former radio guy, Dick Cross, would meet me for lunch, we’d start talking …and an hour would just evaporate. I enjoyed those lunches so much—hearing about each of their radio adventures—that one Saturday, I went out and met them in Issaquah at Dick’s house to interview them and capture some of those great stories on tape. I had this hair-brained scheme at one time that it would make for a decent weekend radio show on KIRO or something. However, for now, it’s just been added to that long list I have of things I’d like to do IF I had more time.
But I didn’t want either of them getting away without preserving at least some of those great times. When I get a chance, I’ll dig that out and put together something you’ll love to hear.
After bumping into Gary and his wife Debbie at Bob & Kim Brooks’ Halloween party last year, we did a major reconnect. Especially after we realized they lived ust a couple of blocks away from my in-laws. When my father-in-law Ernie had some health challenges, the two of them volunteered to walk their dog for a couple of months, never asking for anything in return.
I invited Gary to a couple of the Norwegian events I attended and he loved it. It reminded him of his days up in Alaska, where he belonged to every Scandinavian organization up there EXCEPT the Sons of Norway. To make up for that, he joined the Leif Erikson lodge in Ballard. He, like I, really enjoyed the “small town feeling of it.”
We were seeing each other almost more than back in the radio days, when Gary had to fly back east to help take care of his wife’s dad. It wasn’t supposed to take as long as it did, but he ended up staying there almost half of this year. However, when he returned, it was his turn: his health took a turn for the worse. He had cancer. The cancer spread. Last Friday, he lost his battle, with his wife by his side, on their 38th wedding anniversary.
Gary wasn’t done living. His jovial laugh and good nature just made you feel at ease. When you went off the air and ran around screaming with your arms flailing, Gary would calmly say something like, “I’ll see what I can do.”
So, Gary is to blame for the way I feel about Robin Williams. Yes, Robin had demons, yes he had depression. But otherwise, he was healthy and had a good number of years to go. Yet, he threw his life away. Gary didn’t get to vote.
I explained in a previous blog why I feel Robin Williams was selfish and I stand by that. Look, we don’t have to agree on the subject. For all of our modern medical advances, something can be done. Allowing depression to be a pass for doing the unthinkable—whether it’s drowning your kids, shooting a former Beatle or a president or taking your own life—it’s just simply not OK. When we make it OK or understandable, we plant the seed for other people to consider tossing away their life as an option, since society now views that as ‘understandable.’
Gary, I thank you for all your did over the years and your friendship. Robin, you were a comedy god and one of the most unique talents I’ve ever witnessed.
But I will never understand suicide and, frankly, never want to.