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Gary Garlock, 81, passed away on May 13, 2023, surrounded by the people he treasured most. Gary was born in Billings on Nov. 30, 1941, to Dale and Marcy.
Gary spent his elementary and middle school years attending Little Flower and Holy Rosary, graduating from Billings Central Catholic High School in 1960. After graduation, Gary joined the Navy.
Upon returning from his time in the service, Gary went-a-courtin’ his high school sweetheart, Mary Lynne Schruth. She became his “Sweets” and he, her forever steady. The two united in marriage on June 19, 1965, at St Patrick Co-Cathedral, sharing 51 years of unconditional love, a few tears, companionship and laughter.
Gary lived for his family and worked hard to provide for every need and then some, creating safe spaces and soft places to land. Annual summer vacations to Silvergate created some of our most precious memories.
Gary’s heart grew even bigger when he became a grandpa. Affectionately known as “Papa,” there was no shortage of love and affection for his grandchildren, along with assurance he “had their back” when they came to him with a bad day or “tattle tales” on their parents.
Carving out safe spaces was not only something Gary did for his family, but also throughout his career as an educator and administrator. Gary earned his bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree from MSU Billings. Gary began his teaching career in Great Falls, with a quick stint in Minnesota, finally landing back in Billings, where he would spend the next 30 years with the Billings Public Schools as a teacher, and notably, the Executive Director of Student Special Services, retiring in 2000; only to start his “retirement job” working for, then becoming the Executive Director of STEP, continuing his advocacy for all age groups and families of individuals with disabilities. Gary humbly accumulated awards throughout his career including MSU-B Alumni of the Year and the Billings Education Association Exemplary Administrator Award. Those who worked with Gary often referred to him as “the best boss they ever had,” noting his ability to work alongside his teachers and families, calm the waters, “mean business,” and above all, advocate in the best interest of those with disabilities.
The loss of his “Sweets” in 2016 and his eyesight within the same year was a difficult season, but as usual, Gary pivoted and rose to meet the challenges, keeping his sense of humor of life’s “bumps” right up until his passing.
Gary was preceded in death by his parents; brother Loyd; in-laws John and Ann Schruth; and his beloved wife, Mary Lynne. Gary is survived by his son, Todd (Michelle); daughter, Kristen (Kevin) Brook; and the absolute apples of his eye, granddaughters, Dani, Madi and Alyssa. Also surviving him are his cousin, Patty Garlock Lacy; sister-in-Law, Diana; nieces Stacy Garlock Burgin and Gail Garlock Porter; brothers-in-law Mike, Pat and Tim (Kathy) Schruth; along with his Schruth nieces and nephews, their spouses and children … of whom he enjoyed being their Uncle Gary.
Although losing our dad and Papa is a grievous and significant hit to our hearts, we take comfort knowing he’s joined our mom and his sight has been restored.
We would like to extend our thanks to Madonna, Tracey, Paula and Christina at the VA, along with Sasha, Nell and Tammy at RiverStone for always supporting us and delivering amazing care and services to Gary. He enjoyed your friendship and very much appreciated your support. And, although his stay was brief, thank you Susan, Lauren, Kristy, Chef Jerry and Bri at West Park Village for giving Gary a good run at laughter, teasing and a social life!
You did great things, Dad. We can hardly sum it up here. Thank you for your legacy. We love you.
A vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday, May 19, at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 717 18th St. West.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Billings Education Foundation Little Angel Fund, 415 N. 30th St., Billings, MT 59102.