Gary George Gunderson, 82, passed away peacefully in Kalispell, MT on March 23, 2022, surrounded by his dearest family. His most treasured times were gathered with loved ones in the presence of God, and he knew this to be true in his final hours.
Gary was born in Kimball, Nebraska on January 27, 1940 to LeRoy (Bessie) Gunderson and Helen (Red) Martin and was later raised in and around Saugus, CA. He is survived by his beloved children Lisa Gunderson, Lori Gunderson and Greg (Catherine) Gunderson, as well as Greg & Catherine’s three children (Haven, Joshua, and Solvei), all of northwest Montana. He is also survived by his sister Susie Russell of Roswell, NM, and her children, his beloved niece and nephew, Jennifer Russell of Denver, CO, and Michael (Kate) Russell of Helena, MT. In addition, Gary is survived by his step-brother Bill (Alex) Thompson of Huntington, IN. He was preceded in death by his parents, infant brother David, and his nephew, Mathew Russell.
Gary’s fondest memories of childhood involved riding the train each summer by himself, from the earliest age of 8, back and forth between his uncle’s Nebraska farm and his California home. He was known to his oldest friends as a keen, inquiring, and generous man, always searching for new challenges and learning opportunities. These traits remained present in him throughout his life, as he always valued helping and being of service to others, memorizing historical facts that amazed those around him, or engaging in light-hearted political debate whenever he could find a willing cohort.
He was married to his high school sweetheart, then Karen Clark, for 36 years and remained closely connected by their shared love for their Montana home, their children and grandchildren. He was the pied piper of Sunday School and the first to grab tools from his truck to help anyone in need. One of Gary’s favorite early jobs was working as a lead draftsman with Electrofilm, Inc, where he was tasked with finding creative solutions to aircraft engineering problems. Gary was among the earliest drafted to Vietnam, but received a deferment at the request of his employer due to their work on behalf of the war effort. In order to provide better for his young family, in the late 60’s he changed careers and became an electrical apprentice. Gary excelled as an electrician, and established himself with a long career as a master electrician and contractor in the Flathead Valley.
Gary was a man of courage and was open to adventure. At only 31 he sat on the roof of a beautiful new home and sawed it by hand into three pieces, so in the middle of the night, strung with lights, it could travel down the highway to a new location. Since his father-in-law had suddenly passed away, he needed a bigger home to house Karen’s mother and brother, Gladys and Gene Clark, as well as his own growing family. Later, in the summer of 1977, it would be this same undaunted courage and desire for adventure that led he and his best friend Bob Volkman to take a weekend peek at the Flathead Valley. Within six months, the Gunderson and Rich families were living in Montana, joined by the Clark family just two years later. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, kids, horses, dogs, cats, chickens and an angora hamster were all here. It is hard to fathom any other life than the one he helped create for his wife and children in this beautiful corner of Montana.
Gary will always be remembered as the collector of sentimental artifacts (usually to be used as gifts for others), a seeker of stories and connections, and a lover of animals and babies. He had a tender heart that ached for those in need, particularly children. He loved gadgets, trains, crossword puzzles, and problem solving. He was a secret jokester as long as it was at no one’s expense, and was always the first to ask grace at any meal. Gary is missed tremendously by his loving family, but we know he is in a peaceful place in the arms of his Savior.
There will be a memorial service at Buffalo Hill Funeral Home on Wednesday, May 25, at 1pm. All who knew Gary are welcome to join. Friends are encouraged to visit our website at www.buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolences for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory caring for the family.