Our community has lost a wonderful, caring man. Gary Wallin died suddenly in Seattle, WA on March 21, 2017. He was 68 years of age.
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Gary was born in Aberdeen, WA to Berta Gill Wallin and Donald V. Wallin. Gary often recalled an early childhood that was often hard: his parents working long hours at lumber mill jobs, seemingly endless rain, regular flooding, and using row boats to get to his home. There was also much love: from his parents, from his younger brothers Bob and Ron. Gary also had a special relationship with his Grandpa Ed, who he visited in Portland as often as possible.
Gary and his family moved to Oak Harbor when he was eight years old. Other than a year of mortuary school in San Francisco as a young man, Oak Harbor would remain his home for his entire life.
Gary met Martha Suess in junior high and they remained special friends all through high school. Friendship bloomed into love and on February 14, 1976 they were married at St. Augustine Catholic Church. Gary and Martha just celebrated 41 years of marriage. Their family grew to two wonderful sons, Jason and Matthew. Gary and Martha were life partners and went everywhere together, sharing their love for each other with everyone they met.
He graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1967; his 50th reunion would have been this summer. Gary received two AA degrees from Skagit Valley College and is a graduate of the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science where he received the prestigious Mu Sigma Alpha award for academic excellence.
Gary has worn many, many hats in Oak Harbor. His work life began when he was just 14. At an open house at the newly established Bartleson Funeral Home, Gary was offered a job as groundskeeper, car washer, general maintenance man, and ambulance attendant. This job transitioned to an internship as a funeral director/embalmer, and Gary realized his calling. After graduating from mortuary school in 1971, Gary returned to Oak Harbor, passed his State board exams, and continued working for Bartleson as a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Gary had a lifelong entrepreneurial bent, too. In 1976, just after he and Martha married, Gary founded Wallin Ambulance Service, with his brother Ron, establishing stations on both north and south Whidbey. In the early 1980s, the ambulance service transitioned to Whidbey General Hospital, where Gary became a Department Head. He played a prominent role in creating Washington State’s First Responder program, which was signed into law in the mid-80’s. Subsequently, he trained scores of Emergency Medical Technicians and First Responders. While still working at the hospital, Gary began working part time for Burley Funeral Chapel in Oak Harbor and then, in 1990, joined the business as a funeral director and embalmer. Around the same time, he and Martha started their second small business, Life Safety Training Associates, where they taught public and industrial first aid and CPR until 2000.
After Burley’s was sold, Gary wanted to bring back a family-owned funeral service to Oak Harbor. In 2010, he and Martha realized a life-long dream and opened Wallin Funeral Home & Cremation, LLC and Evergreen Pet Cremation, LLC.
Gary adored Oak Harbor, and served his community with love, compassion, and enthusiasm. In addition to his work related activities he served as a Board Member for the Oak Harbor School District for 15 years, as a volunteer fire fighter with the Oak Harbor Fire Department for a decade, as an active member for more than 20 years and two-time president for the Kiwanis Club of Oak Harbor, as treasurer of the Oak Harbor Police Explorers, as President and Board Member of the Oak Harbor Help House, as a volunteer in the Oak Harbor Schools, as a member of the Oak Harbor Elks lodge, as a member of the Navy League, and recently as elected chairman of the Oak Harbor Main Street Association.
Gary was a man of strong faith and served as a sacristan, Eucharistic Minister, reader, and committee member at St. Augustine Catholic Church.
Gary is survived by his wife Martha, his son Jason (and Shannon) Wallin of Eugene, OR, son Matthew (and Taylor) Wallin of Los Angeles, CA, as well as brothers Bob (and Debbie) Wallin and Ron (and Gayle) Wallin, all of Oak Harbor. Also surviving are granddaughters Adelaide and Linnea, mother-in-law Peggie Suess of Oak Harbor, sister-in-law Julie (and Ralph) Houser of Vancouver, WA, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Don and Berta.
A visitation will be held on Sunday, March 26 from 1-5 pm at Wallin Funeral Home with a Celebration of Life beginning at 3 pm with Chaplain David Lura officiating. A Funeral Mass will be held on Monday, March 27 at 10 am, at St. Augustine Catholic Church with Father Paul Pluth, JCL as celebrant. A reception will follow in the parish hall.
The family suggests memorials to the Oak Harbor Education Foundation, PO Box 1801, Oak Harbor, WA 98277.