William Gary was sitting at the security desk of 66 West 12th Street, eating dinner from a Tupperware container the last time I saw him. He looked up at me with his usual beaming smile and then extended his strong hands out to mine to greet me with a sincere handshake and wholesome pat on the back. William Gary was a strong man, who seemed to radiate enough strength and assurance to pick others up, he inspired us and gave us a reason to smile and feel good about coming to work and school. He made everyone at the New School feel welcomed and respected.
“Have a great holiday Gary. You spending it with your son?” I asked.
“Sure am.” The doting father of a 10-year-old-son said smiling and waving at me for one last time…
A week later, William Gary, 46, would (according to the Free Press) “suffer from a neck injury while lifting weights. The injury led to an allergic reaction to his medical treatment.”
When we all returned from the Thanksgiving break, it was the bad news of William Gary’s death that welcomed us back to The New School, a grim replacement to Will's infectious smile and hearty laughter. For the first few weeks, the lobby was filled with tears, somber faces and hugs. The memorial table would blossom with flowers, cards and candles. Before Will's funeral, The administration of the university set up a GiveForward Memorial fund to help support his son.
The outpouring of emotions and gratitude to this great man’s life, exemplify how important it is to always treat each other with civility, decency and respect. William Gary escorted students into the building when they may have needed assistance, he got to know our names and faces - rarely needing to ask anyone for their identification. As New School President, David Van Zandt stated in an email to the university, “William Gary exemplified what it means when we talk about ‘community.’
As we recall back on this year of 2013 in which we lost our dear friend, William Gary, we should try our best to continue living up to his positive and empowering example.
We miss you Will. With love and light to your son and family.