Gary had no desire to find a part-time job, devoting himself to his family and helping with the grandchildren.
“He retired to do whatever,” Shirley said. “The grandkids kept him busy.”
Whether it was building bird feeders for them, tapping trees for maple syrup, climbing a tree to get moss for a science project or on a ladder to retrieve a wayward helium balloon, Gary was game to help.
Gary also saw to it that Debbie’s daughter, who has cerebral palsy, and Terry’s children got on and off the bus OK.
Then, there were concerts and recitals for the grandchildren, including Tina’s children in Baltimore.
“We made him travel to Baltimore for concerts, recitals, Grandparents Day,” Tina said.
“He did for all of them,” said Shirley, although distance made it harder with daughter Penny Sue McKenzie’s family, who live in Illinois.
Every Christmas, Gary would pick out a funny gift for the grandchildren and last year, they all got musical Christmas hats, Tina said.
After retiring, two cross-country road trips with Shirley’s sister and husband allowed the couple to see “the north, south and through the middle” of the country, Shirley said. Gary liked to drive and did all of the driving for the group.
Years later, Gary also did the driving for their brother-in-law when he had medical appointments at Hershey Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital since Shirley’s sister didn’t drive.
Gary also is remembered for taking a day off of work to drive the children of their family doctor to their grandfather’s funeral in Meyersdale, Pa., on a snowy day.
He and his brother-in-law also helped rescue three children from a burning apartment in the late 1950s, Shirley said.
Gary was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 and underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
In 2007, the cancer came back in his throat. By this past Labor Day, Gary’s health really began to decline.
Debbie retired as a teacher at Hancock Elementary School in July and had been helping Shirley care for him at home since. They devised a system of bells, whistles and monitors so they would know when Gary needed something.
“I said I’ll be hearing bells in my sleep for a month,” Shirley said. “They were a good idea.”
Gary was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy at St. Peter Catholic Church in Hancock. Terry said the priest was surprised at how full the church was for Gary’s funeral, a testament to the number of lives he touched over the years.
“He was funny. He carried on and joked with people,” said daughter Terry Smith of Hancock.
“He always had a joke for Dr. McCormack, even when he was feeling bad,” Shirley said.
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Gary F. Breakall, who died Dec. 7 at the age of 75. His obituary was published in the Dec. 8 edition of The Herald-Mail.