Gary E. Pellegrom, a resident of Etowah, NC. passed away on Saturday, October 3, 2020 at the Black Mountain NeuroMedical Treatment Center after a lengthy and courageous battle with dementia.
Gary was born on August 10, 1947 in Muskegon, Michigan to the late Jack A. and Aleta M. Pellegrom. He leaves behind Pam, his loving wife of 50 years, son Chadd Pellegrom and girlfriend Melanie McGee, of Canton, Ga., son Aaron Pellegrom (Laura), of Crestwood, Ky. and two special grandchildren, Haley and Jackson, who lovingly called him Papa. Gary is survived by his endearing sisters Anita Pellegrom of Spring Lake, Michigan and Jackie Prause (Bob) of Ft. Gratiot, Michigan, several cousins, nieces and nephews. Gary was an exceptional father, husband, brother, grandfather and friend to all who knew him. He was such a good friend, he bailed one out of jail. Asked if he would do the same for his boys, his response was, “no way”! Gary had a deep capacity for love in his heart, with a smile and gorgeous blue eyes to match.
Gary graduated from Muskegon Heights HS, then went to Muskegon Community College before transferring to Western Michigan University, where he met Pam. He majored in petroleum distribution before graduating in 1970. He and Pam were married after graduation, leaving shortly afterwards to begin life in Richmond, Virginia. Over the next 38 years, Gary enjoyed employment opportunities in the heavy-duty trucking industry with Union Oil Company, Nalco Chemical Company/The Penray Companies, and Horton Inc. and Tire Stamp.
Gary traveled extensively for work, and expected Pam to carry the torch while he was away. (Not always easy, my dear!) Gary’s work took him from original equipment manufacturers, (OEM’s) product distributors, to the end-users. Throughout his years in the industry, Gary was highly regarded and respected by his peers as a sales trainer, teacher and coach. He did an excellent job getting to know his customers, their needs, and helping them achieve their goals. He also had an eye for top prospects in building up his customer base. He never let the word “NO” discourage him. His work was very satisfying and was always up to the challenge. He was involved in various industry organizations that were influential in helping his employers achieve success in the transportation arena. One of those was TMC, Technology and Maintenance Council, of the American Trucking Association, where he received the Recognized Associate award after serving many years as a Meeting Mechanic and Sergeant at Arms. Included among his other awards were 1990 District Sales Manager of the Year, District Salesman of the Year and an Exemplary Service award by Who’s Who in Georgia.
Raising our family in Atlanta was a wonderful experience, as we connected with many other “transplant” families whom we met through involvement in church, and its activities and organizations. Gary participated in activities with St. Oliver’s Men’s Club. He was proud of the men and their commitment to giving back to their church. He was active in various church organizations, from lector, parish and finance council, and building committee. Probably his most memorable was as manager and pitcher for St. Oliver’s softball team. They competed against other churches in the area, and over the years, deep-seeded rivalry’s were born. These games were always a family event, whether at home or away. It wasn’t unusual for Gary to come home with cuts, scrapes and bruises. At one point, St. Oliver’s had two teams in the league. Playing each other was always a highlight of the season. Even the Atlanta paper did an interview with Gary, not only about the team rivalry, but the identity of the winning trophy! Celebrations most always took place, win or lose, and everyone was invited. It was an exciting time where lifelong friendships were nurtured.
Gary’s family was important to him. Even though his work required traveling, he would try to be home for the boy’s soccer, baseball or basketball games, or other major events. One such event was leading a cub scout troop while Pam was away visiting family. The boys found a copperhead snake outside the fence. Gary took his shovel, and swoosh, the head was gone! This story made quite an impression. Throughout the years, he and Pam made many friends, and enjoyed exploring the area, family vacations to Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, camping trips to Track Rock, and their special “date nights”. Spending time together was important to them both, whether over dinner, a movie, playing cards, or quiet walks. After the boys left the nest, trips expanded to include Hawaii, Germany and a Danube River cruise.
Gary was a proud dad, and took it upon himself to be involved in their sports activities, whether coaching, or cheering from the stands. Gary was an avid golfer, and wanted to teach the boys the game he loved, and its many life lessons. Gary was the only person we knew who had 2 holes in 1 on the same day, same course! They would play after church on weekends, or late afternoons during the summers. Both boys played in high school, and the youngest received a college scholarship. On one occasion, Gary was on his way to surprise our oldest at one of his away tournaments, but the game was canceled due to rain. When the youngest went off to college, Gary frequently arranged business trips to coordinate with tournament schedules. Whether it was the parent association at Florida State, or the Baylor golf team, Gary was there to support, and encourage, and sometimes give some fatherly advice. When home, Gary enjoyed being outside, mowing the grass, planting and tending a garden, or relaxing on the back porch.
In 2009, Gary was diagnosed with dementia. In 2010 Gary retired, and moved closer to the boys. The mountains of Asheville was a perfect spot to call home. He continued golfing for a few years, until it became too difficult for him. He turned driving duties over to Pam, and she was happy to become his “Driving Mr. Daisy”. In 2014, Gary was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He responded very well to treatment. Over the years, Gary accepted these challenges with grace and courage, because he was a man of character and deep faith. We were also fortunate to have a very supportive group of friends. In 2017, Gary moved in to a memory care facility that could safely provide for his ever-changing needs. The last 18 months were spent in a facility specializing in behaviors associated with dementia. Gary quickly became a joy to those around him. He was surrounded by love, and compassionate care right up till the end. His family is relieved his pain and suffering is over, and he is now at peace. Gary’s footprint will forever be a part of their lives, and they will forever be in our hearts for their dedication and commitment to those with dementia.
A celebration of Gary’s life will be held at St. Oliver’s Church, Snellville, Ga., in spring, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made in Gary’s memory to one of the following:
* Memory Care, for the Memory Caregivers Network, 100 Far Horizons Lane, Asheville, NC 28803
* Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, 2700 Horizon Dr., Ste.120, King of Prussia, Pa. 19406
* Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, 383 Main Avenue, 5th floor, Norwalk, CT. 06851