Lovingly known as “Mr. Emerson”, “Handsome”, “Gayree”, “Pops”, “Dad”, “Granddad”…..
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Gary Bernhardt Emerson, age 83, died at home in Houston, Texas, January 14, 2020. A native Houstonian, Gary was born June 4, 1936.
Gary was predeceased by his parents, Gary Samuel Emerson and Zula Mae Bernhardt Emerson, and the cherished mother of his sons, Barbara Keuchel Emerson Turner. Gary’s cousin, Joyce Anderson Jacks Pearce of North Richland Hills, and his nephew, Kel Kimball of Corpus Christi, also predeceased him.
He is survived by his beloved sisters, Judy Emerson of Houston and Beverly Emerson Donoghue and husband C. Michael Donoghue of Austin. In addition, Gary is survived by his loving sons, Michael (“Super”) Lawrence Emerson and wife Regina Marie Emerson and Paul (“Paulito”) Anthony Emerson, and Paul’s children, Marenna Elizabeth Emerson and Merrick William Emerson, all of Houston. Gary’s family includes nieces and nephews: Lynette Kimball Lansford of Keller; Independance Smith of San Diego; Sally Emerson Ransom of Houston; Elisabeth and Stephen Webster of Austin; and Kelley Donoghue of New York City.
Humorously referred to as “Sugar Legs”, his wife, Suelen Palmer Wendenburg Emerson, was blessed to have been his soulmate forty years and caregiver, advocate, and defender the past fifteen years. Always having his mother’s back, Suelen’s son, Christian Wendenburg of Houston, was a great help to her in Gary’s care. Christian was privileged to have enjoyed Gary’s friendship since 1980. Over the years they exchanged thoughts regarding their mutual interests in motorcycles, tennis, and running. Gary had a hardy respect for Christian’s Ironman accomplishments.
Suelen’s sisters, Katie Beckham of Houston and Carrie Reiser and husband Ken of Dallas, warmly embraced Gary. Loving nieces and nephews include: Kirsten Mullins of Houston; Eric and Carly Beckham of Houston; Carrie Beckham of Houston; Jenson and Elizabeth Reiser of San Antonio; Haley Reiser of Houston; and Cole and Rachel Reiser of Dallas. The “Blue Dog” Kona faithfully guarded Gary’s bedside. Thanks go to special friends, Clark, Mona, Audrey, and Josh, whose visits brightened his life. Always happy to meet a newcomer, Gary courteously extended his hand to Mr. AJ as the newest member of his circle.
Upon graduation from Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio, Gary earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in College Station. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Class of 1958. A proud fightin’ Texas Aggie, he returned to Campus in 2013 to be inducted into the Sul Ross Group. Gary was granted a Professional Engineer Certificate from the State of Texas in 1964. Employed by Anderson-Greenwood Company in Houston for the majority of his professional career, he was responsible for marketing a specialty safety valve used in the petroleum industry. Considered an expert in the field, he traveled extensively to present training seminars and share his knowledge. Recognizable by his warm smile and casual manner, Gary was highly regarded by colleagues. Through his association at AGCO with Virginia Palmer (1920-2009), he met her daughter Suelen in 1980.
Away from the office, being an avid runner kept Gary fit, youthful, and grounded. His graceful hands made him a talented acoustic guitarist. Gary’s love of music was diverse, running the gamut from from the earthy soul blues of Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters to the soft jazz of Bonnie Raitt and Eva Cassidy to the wild metal rock of Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Alice In Chains. Gary had a passion for performance cars and sportbikes, and he enjoyed honing his skills on the track and swooping around mountain curves.
After retiring from AGCO in 2001, Gary ventured to the unique scenery of Rogers, Arkansas, and then to the peacefulness of The Woodlands. Ultimately, Gary returned to the suburban character of Cinco Ranch to be near his sons. There he undertook the role of puppy trainer with his gorgeous Alaskan Malamute Mikah. In the blink of an eye a tragic accident in 2005 suspended everything, and Gary’s mantra, “What is, is”, sustained him moving forward.
The combination of Gary’s strong will and can-do attitude, plus Suelen’s commitment to her vow,
“I have, I do, I will”, added fifteen rewarding years to Gary’s life. Sincere gratitude is extended to the team of superb medical specialists who advised and supported Suelen in her management of Gary’s care, including Akira Nishikawa, Tung Shu, George Burnazian, Richard Carney, Gerard Francisco, Donald Hauser, and Gary Erwin.
During this period, Gary was blessed to see the rapid growth of his grandchildren, as well as the addition to his family of a treasured daughter-in-law. Days were filled with as much normalcy as possible. There were car trips to Texas World Speedway and MSR Houston and adventurous flights to Arkansas, Florida, and Illinois. Gary was introduced to the gentle nature of Dalgood Longhorns in Hockley and the quirkiness of crusty Gilhooley’s in San Leon. Frequent trips to hear Michael play at Galveston’s Pleasure Pier and Kemah’s Boardwalk brought Gary great pride. He loved the view of the Channel from Willie G’s dock, where he rested in the shade and watched tankers, sailing vessels, and cruise ships head out to sea. Riding the Bolivar Ferry was a treat, as the accompanying porpoises, seagulls, and pelicans fascinated him. A stop for seafood at Stingaree’s in Crystal Beach topped off a happy day.
For thirty years Gary participated in annual visits to Louisiana’s Manresa Retreat House, where he found solemnity under the century-old, moss-draped oaks. Special accommodations were kindly made to allow Suelen to accompany Gary so he could continue to attend after becoming disabled. Sundays were devoted to Michael’s visits, when they would sit on the patio to enjoy Suelen’s flowers or the aroma of the chimenea. In his recliner, Gary could never get his fill of America’s Funniest Videos, Sanford & Son, tennis legends, and world-class motorcyclists, while sharing pizza and chocolate ice cream in front of the big screen.
Throughout his life Gary exhibited fortitude and kindness. There was an ever-present twinkle in his eye, and his exuberant enjoyment of life was obvious. One’s legacy is neither gift nor gold, but the lessons taught by example and the simple, meaningful memories tucked away in the hearts of loved ones.
On one particularly memorable occasion, Paulito (8), Super (17), and Gary set out on a mission to prevent pesky squirrels from nesting in the ceiling of the lakehouse garage. With helpers precariously perched in the bed of the pick-up while holding heavy ply above their heads, their supervisor ordered, “Hold what you’ve got!” as he positioned the nail and readied his hammer... Plink! Gary’s strike did not land squarely and sent the nail flying onto the dusty floor. The thwarted trio collapsed in belly laughter, which was in itself a wonderfully loving moment.
Ultimately, Gary’s physical health could not keep pace with his will, and he “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and crossed into the hands of God. Precluded by childhood asthma from his desire to serve in the United States Air Force, without doubt Gary earned his wings and now soars high above. Gary’s life circle is complete. He has passed the checkered flag and posted his Personal Best!
Following Gary’s wishes, there was no formal funeral service. Family and friends will gather for an informal Aggie Muster in the Spring to share memories of his life and celebrate his 84th birthday. Arrangements for Gary’s Muster are pending and information will be available in June.
In his youth Gary found success and confidence on the baseball field. In adulthood, he was infatuated by and felt a kinship with the wolf. Fittingly, Gary would be pleased to have tribute gifts made to either Houston’s Spring Spirit Baseball (www.springspiritbaseball.org) or The International Wolf Center, 7100 Northland Circle North, Suite 205, Minneapolis, MN 55428.