Gary R. Hafer, 53 of Billings, died at his parents’ home, on January 28, 2012, following a five month battle with cancer. Gary was born on October 19, 1958, in Casper, Wyoming, the youngest son of Ann and Rex Hafer. A short time later the family moved back to Billings, where Gary grew up and graduated from Billings West High School in 1977, serving as the Senior Class President. During his high school years, Gary was an avid skier and a member of the National Ski Patrol at Red Lodge Mountain. He had a passion for skiing which he pursued his entire life. He went on to attend The University of Washington, Colgate University in New York where he received his BA and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he received his Master’s Degree in Textiles.
An ever learner, Gary was active in Boy Scouts and later achieved Eagle Scout, which was the start of his love of the outdoors. As an Eagle Scout, he learned to sew, creating his own tent, sleeping bag, backpack, and gear, which was the start of his sewing and textile career. He started a business called Canvas Gems in High School, using scraps of tipi patterns from Reliable Tent and Awning to make his product. He created his own catalog and sold his custom made shirts, bags, caps, and gear. Later he started Shining Mountain Furniture Company creating unique pieces of furniture, and sewing the upholstery.
An adventurous soul, Gary took time to “find himself” by traveling across the country and hitchhiking up the East Coast, where he decided to attend Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. After obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Sciences from Colgate, Gary came back to Billings to pursue his clothing and furniture business. Realizing it wasn’t as profitable as he had hoped, he traveled south and got a job with Wrangler Western Wear, first in Russellville, Alabama. Later, still working for Wrangler, he moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he furthered his career and education. After Wrangler he went to work for Champion Athletic Clothing in Burlington, Vermont. While there he performed industrial engineering in the manufacture of women’s athletic bras, always joking “he was helping support America’s breasts.” Gary’s love for Montana brought him back to Billings in 2003, when he “Retired!”
As an enthusiastic traveler, Gary had been to countries far and wide, including Costa Rica, Morocco, Spain, Denmark, China, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few. In Billings, he joined the Beartooth Nordic and Hiking Club, where he was currently serving as President. They took outdoor trips hiking, biking, and skiing to memorable places across Montana and locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. He developed countless relationships with people in the Nordic and Hiking Club, and across the world. In the winter, his love of skiing kept him on the slopes as often as possible. He had a fondness for Red Lodge Mountain and anywhere there was snow! He met many great ski companions over the years and valued their time together on the mountain.
In September 2011, Gary was struck with the diagnosis of Bile Duct Cancer. This limited his ability to continue his various activities, but the friendships he had made over the years kept him going. The strong and continuous support of his friends over the past few months gave Gary the courage and strength to accept his diagnosis and live his life as best he could. The support of those friends was an amazing and true blessing to his family.
Gary is survived by his parents, Ann and Rex Hafer of Billings; brothers Randy (Janna) Hafer of Billings and Craig Hafer of Colorado Springs, Colorado; ten nieces and nephews; aunts and cousins; and countless special friends; as well as Jane, his feline companion.
Cremation has taken place. Memorial Services will be held at 2:00 P.M., Thursday, February 2, at First United Methodist Church, 2800 4th Ave. N. Memorials, in lieu of flowers may be made to BikeNet, P.O. Box 81146, Billings, MT 59108 or American Canoe Association, 108 Hanover St., Fredericksburg, VA 22401, or a charity of one’s choice.
Please share your remembrance with others. After review you memory will be posted to this page and shared with the family.