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H. Gary France

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H. Gary France

July 8, 1925 ~ October 16, 2013

A little about our dad, H. Gary France:

Our exceptional father, Gary, passed away at his Colonial Vista home in Wenatchee following a sudden illness. Born to Herbert and Vivian France, Gary was the fourth of six children, and the 3rd generation of a pioneering family homesteading in Wenatchee in 1883. A favorite childhood story involved Gary’s horse, Nugget. “In relay races at the Waterville Fair, Nugget wasn’t the fastest, but he could stop on a dime from a sprint gallop. A burly dad would swap riders in a single motion, and Nugget would eventually win by a fair margin.” Gary also developed considerable carpentry skills in his youth and built homes with his father and brothers, several as they still stand on White Birch Place. Speaking and analytical skills, developed in part on the high school debate team, became life-long passions, and he graduated from Wenatchee High in 1943. Earning a theology degree from Oregon Bible College in Illinois in 1946, Gary served as Pastor of the Church of God Faith of Abraham in Wenatchee (by the cemetery on Western Avenue) from then, until 1979. He also wrote articles for local and church conference periodicals.

Gary returned to Illinois in 1950 to visit his earlier flame, Iola Magaw, daughter of the college president. Arriving low over town on a Sunday morning in a deafening WWII airplane, he rattled windows and church services before landing and asking his sweetheart to marry him. She said yes, and they tied the knot within days. Not anticipating outcomes in advance, Gary’s mother had accompanied him in the two-seat plane. Thoughtful consideration of whether she or Iola would return to Wenatchee alone was brief - though noted; and joked upon forever after. Gary also owned and operated a fiberglass shop near the current Albertson’s store on Miller street from 1959 thru 1963. There, he built 10, 14 and 16 foot power boats, as well as custom-design fiberglass projects.

Earning a Master’s degree in Psychology from Central Washington State College in 1965, he taught Psychology and English Composition at Wenatchee Valley College from 1965 through 1992. As his previous students would fondly remember, his normal attire was dress slacks, dress shirt and tennis shoes, albeit, nice tennis shoes. He enjoyed athletics and often attended football and basketball games with the entire family. Gary became president of the WVC Teacher’s Association during turbulent budget-cutting times in the early 1980’s. Many instructors and administrative staff were let go. His negotiations with the WVC President and Board helped smooth painful choices, and his peers presented him a cherished plaque in 1987 acknowledging his “holding things together.”

Gary was an avid fisherman of Central Washington rivers and lakes in middle years and later became an accomplished sailor. He liked nothing better than hosting family and friends in fishing and the later sailing on Lake Washington, Lake Union, Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands. A fondness for dance returned in late retirement. Two or more evenings per week he could be found dining and dancing anywhere from Leavenworth to Moses Lake. At a Senior Center, his boyish grin and raised eyebrows ask a walker-dependent partner “Shall we?” She looks at him, wondering. He bends down, takes her in his arms, and helps her stand. Rocking gently from side to side for a few moments of best-memories, she returns to her seat, all smiles and tears.

Gary is survived by his brother, Clell (Barbara) of East Wenatchee; and children, Jim Magaw of Kenmore, Margaret France (Roger) of Fairfax Station, VA, Syd France (Margaret) of Kirkland, Michal Brown Thompson (Dave) of Wenatchee and Corine Love Myers of Burke, VA. Gary also leaves eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Iola; and brothers, Vernon, Arden, and Howard, also of Wenatchee; and sister, Helen (Salley) Behrend of Marysville.

A Memorial Service will be held at the Church of God Faith of Abraham (across from the cemetery, north end of Western Ave.) on Saturday, November 16, 2013 at noon. Please express your thoughts and memories on the online guest book at Arrangements are by Jones & Jones~Betts Funeral Home.

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