Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Good Man Gone...

Our friend Reid Gauker passed away last month...

Reid and Betty Gauker were the parents of Chris, Matt, and Lisa.  Matt was the same age as me.  Chris was the much cooler, older brother (not surprisingly he is now an author and a professor of philosophy at the University of Cincinatti).  Lisa was the much younger kid sister.  Matt was in most if not all of my grade school classes at Washburn Elementary in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Matt, my brother Steve, and I were in the same Cub Scout Den run by Mrs. Zahn back in the 1960s.  Matt and I ran in different circles in Junior and Senior High School and encountered each other only randomly in the years afterwards.  Reid and I spoke from time to time; he seemed always to have a few minutes to catch up.  In the Spring of 1985 he helped me sell a few spare black powder rifles, a hobby I had lost interest in.  I was away in California from 1985 to 1999.  Long in poor health, Betty died in 1997.

When we returned to Minnesota I had occasion to visit Reid and became entranced by the custom muzzle loading long rifles he had built over the years.  My interest in black powder guns was reignited.  Reid invited me to a meeting of his black powder club.  He introduced me to another fella who took me to the range.  There I had a chance to shoot a French Tulle Fusil de Chasse muzzle loader reproduction.  Buoyed by Reid's encouragement, I decided to build one for myself.  When the work was finally finished I took the fusil to Reid to show it off.  He was pleased with the results.  Then he said, "Say, have you ever made a powder horn?"  I admitted I had not.  Reid proudly showed me some examples of his current hobby, making custom crafted powder horns.  He immediately selected several raw horns for me and suggested I give it a try.  He was concerned one horn was a little too gnarled and offered to swap it for another.  I said I wanted to try using it anyway.  Reid relented.  I returned to visit him a month or so later with a nice little horn, handsome in a pug-nosed sort of way.  Reid was pleased with my first effort.  "I wasn't sure there was a horn in there, but you found it."

Reid was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.  That Fall my mom said "Reid asked you to come visit."  Matt was living at home then.  Lisa and her family were staying with Reid too.  I called to set a time for a visit but Reid asked me to check in again after the holidays.  I regret I never did.  It was have been nice to see Matt again, but he died in September of 2010.  I sat with Reid for a while before Matt's memorial service.  He seemed tired, and frail, and sad.

In January of 2011 Mom told me Reid was in hospice.  I planned to go see him, but first I wanted to find a picture of Matt and me in our Cub Scout uniforms that I knew was somewhere in one of many photo albums.  I spent too much time looking for it.  Reid passed away in the company of family and friends on February 27, 2011.  He was 84 years old.  Reid's memorial was conducted several weeks later.  In the lobby of the funeral home was a display that included Reid's best rifle and several of his finest horns.  During the lovingly conducted celebration I learned many things about Reid, Betty, Chris, Matt, and Lisa that I had not known before.  I respected Reid as Matt's friendly dad when I was child and appreciated the friendship he offered me when I became an adult.  He was a fine man his whole life.


  1. Reid truly was a fine man who seemed to approach most things with a bit of a laid back sort of way.
    Having lived in the same neighborhood for twenty some years, I don't ever remember him being any thing but happy.

    Mike's dad