Gary Carl LaGere
February 15, 1938 to June 30, 2023

The family of Gary Carl LaGere announces that our beloved husband, father and grandfather has died. We have a pretty good idea what was going on in heaven on June 30, 2023, and we’d like to share it.

While cradled in the arms of Ann, his wife of 62 years, and surrounded by his children, Shelley (Steve), David (Amy), Jamie and Jack (Kate), he rolled in late that night, gave St. Peter a high five and a sang a few slightly off-key bars of “Boomer Sooner.”

He headed to the bar, ordered a Chivas and soda with a twist, popped open a box of pinwheel cookies and curated a playlist featuring the Kingston Trio, the Glen Miller Orchestra, Jimmy Buffet and Ramsay Lewis. There were some TVs on, and the Sooners were beating Texas in football and basketball.

Next, he greeted his parents, Carl and Marvel LaGere, who predeceased him. He was their first child, born in Great Bend, KS, on February 16, 1938. The family soon moved to Chandler, OK, where Gary grew up and graduated from Chandler High School. He likely saw some old football buddies, and probably ran into the high school speech teacher who once called him to the front of the classroom to deliver a speech that Gary had neglected to prepare. He offered an impromptu primer on football, with Xs and Os on the blackboard, and all the non-jocks in the class thanked him later for making the game more intelligible.

Next, he probably ran into some old OU Fiji buddies, and some of the guys from the OU School of Engineering, where he earned a B.S. in industrial engineering. They would have reminisced about how Gary’s life was changed forever on the day the Queen of the Engineering School (yes, that was a thing at OU in the 50s), a beauty named Ann Gallagher, was escorted into his classroom while touring the department. He gave his heart to her completely, and they married in Tulsa in 1961. They had a lifetime love affair, and even when Alzheimer’s disease took just about everything away from Gary, he never lost her. His last word was “Ann.”

But back to our story … At some point on that first night in heaven, Gary found and saluted Navy Captain Ed Kelley, his commanding officer on the USS Blandy, where Gary spent two years as an officer. He told Capt. Kelley that he never forgot the night they surfaced a Russian submarine off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. When Gary left active duty for the Naval Reserves, Capt. Kelley wrote that Gary “is in my opinion the finest young officer I have known in my twenty years of naval service.”

After the Navy, Gary went to work as an IBM salesman in Tulsa. If he bumps into Ross Perot up there in heaven, they will no doubt talk about the time Gary beat out Ross to win the St. Francis Hospital contract, Ross responded by offering Gary a job at his new company, EDS (which would no doubt have made Gary a billionaire), and Gary turned it down out of loyalty to IBM. Gary did loyalty like no one you have ever met, sometimes to his considerable disadvantage, but he would not betray a friend or renege on a commitment.

Gary went on to be a computer company entrepreneur, residential real estate builder, Hollywood movie investor (Google McIntosh & T.J.), oil business investor, and finally an insurance executive at National American Insurance Co. in Chandler, which was founded by his younger brother, Brent (Marilyn), who survives him. Gary commuted between Chandler and Tulsa for many years in his giant Lincoln Town Cars, and we are pretty sure he never passed the McDonald’s on I-44 without stopping for a bathroom break, a cup of coffee and to flirt with the ladies on staff.

We are also pretty sure that during his first weekend in heaven, Gary sought out and thanked the engineers who created Grand Lake and the geniuses who invented snow skiing. He loved the lake and boating, and patiently taught all his kids and many of their friends how to waterski (and snow ski), drive a boat and pull a skier. Once his grandkids, Roscoe, Piper, Louisa, Jackson, Abby, Anna, Andrew and Ellie came along, his Saturday morning routine at the lake was to get up early, drive to the vegetable stand (but somehow come home with donuts), then take the kids out on the boat to cruise, swim and ride on the tube. He also loved to take Ann out on moonlight cruises. During the winter, Gary liked to hit the ski slopes on his bright yellow Molnar skis, teach people how to ski all day, then go eat fried chicken at Slogar’s in Crested Butte.

In the midst of settling into heaven, Gary has probably already volunteered to hose down the patios, organize the scavenger hunts for Christmas and Easter, coach a kids’ basketball team, appear regularly at open-mic night with his three- joke repertoire, dance with any unaccompanied ladies and bring the WWII classic film, Midway, to movie night, during which he will provide nonstop commentary. This is not optional.

We know this because Gary was a community volunteer in Tulsa. He was president of the board of Tulsa Family & Childrens’ Services, co-founded the Catholic charismatic movement in Tulsa, served on the board at Oral Roberts University, and was very involved at the Church of St. Mary, Monte Cassino School and Cascia Hall. He and Ann were members of Southern Hills Country Club and the Summit Club.

We can only guess what Gary will get up to after all that. In the meantime, we will celebrate his life with a Rosary on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at St. Rita Chapel at Cascia Hall school, and at a Mass on Friday, July 7, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary in Tulsa. There will be a reception after Mass at the St. Mary’s parish hall.

Gary’s family would like to thank Tamora Henderson, his devoted caregiver for the last couple of years. We are so grateful for her.

If you would like to honor Gary, we suggest a donation to Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, the Alzheimer’s Association or the John 3:16 Mission in Tulsa.

My mom, siblings and I at the Celebration of Dad’s Life
July 7, 2023