La Grande, Oregon
Gary David Hartsock, 45, of La Grande, died Jan. 13 at his home. A viewing runs from 4 to 6 p.m. today at Loveland Funeral Chapel. A memorial service will begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the La Grande Church of Christ, 2107 Gekeler. A graveside service will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Loveland Funeral Chapel and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.
Gary was born in Yakima, Wash., on March 30, 1962. He attended elementary school through the third grade in Yakima. Gary’s family moved to Joseph in 1971. There he attended school in Enterprise and later graduated from Joseph High School in 1980.
In grade school Gary developed problems with balance and coordination, which made it difficult to participate in many activities. In 1978 Gary was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease, Freidreich’s Ataxia. He also became Type 1 diabetic in association with Freidreich’s Ataxia.
Due to scoliosis he had a spinal fusion and from that point was confined to a wheelchair. But that did not dampen his desire to be employed. He worked for a day care center as a student aide and for the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce information booth for several summers.
Gary then moved to Beaverton at his mom’s encouragement. He was nervous about going but later admitted that he was glad as he had so many wonderful experiences. He was proud that he got around in Portland wheeling himself downtown. He studied photography, taking many pictures.
He was excited that the Burger King restaurant on Burnside in Portland allowed him to display some city scenes that he had taken.
As Gary’s disease progressed it became too difficult for him to steady the camera and Gary returned home to Joseph.
Upon returning home, Gary became involved in physical fitness. People would see him in all types of inclement weather wheeling himself on a daily route.
He participated in many endurance runs, completing the the Bloomsday run in Spokane. There he challenged the famous Doomsday Hill without assistance.
Being unable to work, Gary became passionate about fundraising for two organizations. He diligently collected thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Diabetes’ Oregon Trail Ride. This gave him a purpose. He wanted to find a cure to help others with these devastating diseases. It made him happy to give back to the community and to those who helped him.
Though his health was declining, he never faltered in his efforts. His most recent fundraiser was the American Diabetes Oregon Trail Ride in June 2007. In talking with Mary Crowell, it was determined that Gary possibly could have collected $30,000 over the years for both organizations.
In his earlier days Gary enjoyed happy hours at Wallowa Lake riding the go-carts, playing pool and working at Chief Joseph Days every summer for many years. He loved collecting Batman and Nascar memorabilia. Those who knew him say Gary trained his family members and friends to keep their eye out for things he liked. Those who knew him say Gary had so much untouched talent. They say he wanted to accomplish so much and wanted the normal things – to be able to drive a car, have a girlfriend and have a family of his own.
Gary was a member of the La Grande Church of Christ. He faithfully attended church and Bible study every week for years.
Gary is survived by his parents, Gary Hartsock Sr. and Janice Byers; stepfather, Jerry Byers; adopted sister, Gloria Joralemon; stepsister, Jerri Shambaugh; stepbrothers, Brian and Darrel Byers; grandparents, William and Laura Wesselius; uncles and aunts, David and Edna Thysell, Art and Marge Thysell, Clyde and Merla Thysell, Rod and Mary Jane Thysell, Todd and Lisa Thysell, Joyce Hill, Molly Worthington and Bill Hartsock; many cousins; caregivers, Julie Comstock, Elysia Hudson, Peggy Lockwood, Gregg Williams, Tina Ramberg, Kit House, Tammy Casey and Ann Spurrier; his best friend, Jo Ellen Crawford; his wonderful church family; and many others too numerous to mention.
Gary was preceded in death by his grandfather, Carl David Thysell; grandfather, Arthur Garold Hartsock; grandmother, Hazel Stickney Hartsock; and his dogs, Princess and Patty.
La Grande Observer – Obituaries For The Week Ending January 19, 2008 – Published: January 19, 2008