I fondly recall the last time I saw Gary Gasseling. It was just two months ago. Like every other time I saw him, he was happy. He was smiling. I’m pretty sure he greeted everyone with that smile (maybe even the bad guys). On this day, he had that “Gary grin” as people from all over campus and beyond filed onto the grass in front of the EWU Red Barn to wish him well in retirement.
It didn’t matter that temperatures were sweltering over 90 degrees on that late July afternoon. This was Gary – he seemed like the brother, uncle or buddy you could always count on to brighten your day no matter the situation.
Everyone who gathered to wish him well knew law enforcement was his passion, something he poured his heart into for 40 years. People told stories, paid tribute to his dedication and, of course, poked fun at him in the good natured way you treat a pal. Gary beamed that day, clearly captivated with the presence of his wife Sally, son Matt and two of his granddaughters.
Selfishly, I was thinking how I was going to miss my “go-to” guy on campus. Because of our jobs, Gary and I would sometimes have to call each other at 4 a.m. on a snow day, or maybe 3 p.m. on a sunny Saturday because of something that “might” put EWU in the news. We chatted countless times during the week about public safety, media interviews, what to say, how to say it and what it all means.
Gary was so passionate about preparation for any type of emergency situation on campus. He didn’t want one student, faculty or staff member to be a victim, and he relished every opportunity to discuss how everyone could take proactive steps to stay safe.
I enjoyed every conversation, every smile, every insight and every tense moment because it would always end with a cheerful goodbye.
He once joked his title was Deputy Chief, not the Assistant Chief, because he didn’t want to be known as the “Ass Chief.”
That was Gary. Always looking at the lighter side of life.
I’m quite certain he is still smiling now, just as he was when I snapped the photo in this story on that July afternoon.
So yes, be very sad that Gary Gasseling has passed away. But don’t forget to smile in his memory.
As EWU Police Chief Tim Walters told me this week, “Gary will be missed, we are glad he was in our lives.”
By Dave Meany, director of media relations for EWU