Gary grew up in Buena Park in Orange County, near Knott’s Berry Farm. “I lived there when it was just a berry farm. Before it was anything that it is now,” he said. He grew up with both parents and his six siblings—three brothers and three sisters, all in the same house.
He recalls his childhood being a good and happy one. “My father was a general operation manager for a furniture company named Barker Bros.,” he said. “I would go to the warehouse where he worked on the weekends to clean up for some extra pocket money.” Gary loved baseball. He became a promising player and was a good student, graduating early.
After high school, Gary went to college at 17, but he left after three years to be a plastering contractor. Through work he met his soon-to-be wife—her father was also in the business—and they married and had a daughter. Gary started his own business and his wife worked as a psychiatric nurse for the state. They were married for 35 years before Gary’s wife passed in 2009 after suffering a major stroke.
Gary is proud of the fact that he paid for his daughter’s college education. He also helped her and her husband out financially with some house payments, which caused some hardship for him. There were some arguments over it and the two haven’t spoken for three years. “I don’t care about the money anymore,” he said. “I just want us to get to a place of reconciliation.” Gary gushes over how proud of her she is, and misses her greatly.
“This program has been really good for me. I finally feel at ease—coming here has taken a lot of stress off of me.”
Things became a bit more difficult for Gary after an altercation at home. He was renting a room in a mobile home park, and after a (verbal) argument with another resident, Gary had to go to court. “She lied and said I had made terrorist threats to her—I spent 45 days going to court to prove I was innocent.” The case was dropped, but now Gary had no place to live and was spending too much money on hotel rooms. He started drinking. “Not much, but enough that I needed help,” he said. “I didn’t want to live life like that.”
Gary went to the Mission for help. “This program has been really good for me,” he said. “I finally feel at ease—coming here has taken a lot of stress off of me. I also wanted to start going back to church to get right with the Lord. I knew if I didn’t it was going to be a pit for me.”
Gary has simple desires. He wants to enjoy his retired life, remaining sober. He wants to stay involved with the program, attend AA/NA meetings, and be part of a regular Bible study. “I might even work a little, part-time job to stay busy,” he said.