Gary Dean Wingett 80 of Emmett, Idaho passed away on Jan. 3, 2019 after battling advanced cancer, a diagnosis that came only one month after losing his wife of nearly 55 years, Rosalie.
Gary’s life was built on his devotion to the Lord, his family, and his love of travel, which was so immense, his family nicknamed him “Vacation Dad.” His adventurous spirit frequently drove him to plan his family’s next vacation, even while they were in the middle of one.
From his hospital bed in his final days, he was dreaming of tinkering with his RV and hitting the highway to explore God’s country.
He leaves behind three children, Denise Wingett, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, and Anthony Wingett, and two children through marriage, Jesse Sanchez and Nikki Wingett.
He also leaves behind six grandchildren: Hayden, Mateo, Estelle, Diego, Penelope and Hadlee. His grandbabies accompanied him on countless road-trips that included the beaches of the Pacific Northwest, campsites in Yellowstone and Glacier, and a hotel looking onto the red-rock buttes of Monument Valley.
Gary was born in Kerman, California to Elwin and Reva Wingett, who preceded him in death. He is survived by his sister, Janice LeCrone, and brother, Stephen Wingett.
Gary was raised a Christian and grew up on a small acreage of walnut trees in Walnut Creek, California.
In 1955, he graduated from Las Lomas High School, where his 6-foot, two-inch frame helped him secure several state track records. He is still remembered fondly by his classmates for his sideways grin, contagious laughter, and uproarious antics.
His father built chain-link fences, a trade he taught his son. Gary passed the trade down to his own son.
The Wingetts moved to Boise in 1958, drawn to Idaho for its wide-open wilderness and booming growth. In 1960, Elwin and Reva founded Cascade Fence Company, now known by its green-and-white signs that adorn fences across the Treasure Valley.
Two years later, Gary met Rosalie at an apartment complex in Eugene, Oregon. “Hubba, hubba,” he remembered thinking of her, a sentiment he frequently shared with his kids when recounting their meeting by the apartment pool.
Gary and Rosalie married a year later. They moved to Boise in 1964, after Gary got a phone call from his dad, asking him join him in the fence-building business.
That same year, Gary and Rosalie welcomed their first daughter, Denise.
Gary worked alongside his father, where Elwin sometimes fielded complaints of his son burning through too much vacation time on fishing trips when he should have been digging post-holes with crews.
When Elwin retired, Gary began running the company on his own, and later expanded it to include tennis courts. His natural charm and sense of humor made him a successful businessman. Rosalie eventually left a career in nursing and joined him as co-owner.
In 1978, they became parents again, with Yvonne’s adoption.
Soon after, they moved to Emmett, where they built a home and planted 25 acres of apples, plums and peaches. In 1981, they adopted Anthony.
When he wasn’t pricing fencing or discing on the tractor, Gary was preparing for his next trip. His work shed was his second home.
There, he worked on his RVs, ski boats, bass boats, car-toppers, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and fishing poles.
His trips didn’t always turn out like he planned -- like the time his RV burned down in the parking lot of a California winery. Or the time he bounced out of a raft and was nearly dragged to death on the Snake River. Or the countless near-misses while flying his Mooney airplane through Idaho’s back country. Or that time he screamed for his family to hit the deck while Orca whales swam directly under the boat at full speed in Canada.
The escapades never discouraged “Vacation Dad” from plotting the next adventure. His wife and kids almost always went along with his itineraries, trusting he was leading them to another great memory and years of laughter.
After long work weeks, Gary took his family boating in Hell’s Canyon, where they caught bass and crappie and acquired a taste for fried Spam sandwiches slathered with mustard and his favorite dressing, Miracle Whip. He built a family home in McCall, where they snowmobiled in the back country or snowshoed with their German Shepherds.
He met up with pilot friends during fly-ins to Oregon and Montana. Though the ocean made him sick, he loved deep-sea fishing, favoring the warm waters of Baja, Mexico, where he spent time with his dad and brother. He led summer family caravans to the San Juan Islands, and day excursions to catch crab, dig clams and hop islands.
As his family grew and his hobbies expanded, he drew up blueprints to figure out ways to pull enough toys and boats to accommodate everyone. Some of his contraptions drew gawks from bypassers who often questioned whether they worked. (They always did).
His family remained the center of his life.
Gary remained committed to Rosalie, who was diagnosed in 2011 with a treatment-resistant form of Parkinson’s disease. He cared for her as the illness progressed, rendering her virtually unable to eat, speak, or walk. His caregiving kept her at home until her death on March 6, 2018.
To Denise, her father was her great friend. Someone whom she could count on, banter with, go traveling and camping with, and eventually coerce into attending events that were instinctively not his first choice -- including way too many Elton John concerts. He was someone who would lay the facts out straight, when necessary, but also do it with just the right touch of jocularity.
Her dad was always Yvonne’s real-life superhero. With his signature parenting style of stern talk, humor, and forgiveness, he rescued her from mishaps big and small, and most importantly, he taught her how to rescue herself. He taught her how to live -- with courage, heart, and laughter. He taught her how to find a good man to marry. And, when faced with a trip to his final destination to heaven, he taught her his most powerful lesson of all: acceptance of God’s will.
With Anthony, Gary taught his son a strong work ethic in both business and family, teaching him to be successful in both. They spent countless hours working on ideas only Gary could dream up. Their love for the outdoors grew with each opportunity they spent together from fishing in remote lakes in Alberta to chasing wild game in Idaho’s back country.
Gary’s viewing will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 at the Potter Funeral Chapel in Emmett. Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Emmett. Interment will follow at the Emmett Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Rosalie Wingett’s honor to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Foundation. Please designate the donation for research.
Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Foundation
240 W Thomas Rd, Phoenix AZ 85013