Letter writer remembers Gary Agopian

Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I could have been a stranger to Gary Agopian and yet known his sterling character by witnessing his three children, Heather, Corey and Jason deport themselves through the Celebration of Life held August 9th at Golden Hills Community Church. They projected the graceful affirmation their dad so emphatically embraced, “Let Thy Will Be Done.”

No way such a threesome developed by happenstance. This was nurturing at its best as Gary’s investment in faith and family reaped a stunning harvest.

Having worked beside Gary for four years on the Antioch School Board I offer a few reflections from the community lens. We might ask, what made Gary such a leader?

ACCESSIBLE.: Gary never dismissed a call or e-mail. It must have been his close to three decades in retail management and real estate sales. As the customer was king, the constituent was the Master and he the public servant.

HANDS-ON: Again, invariably his store background which led Gary to roll up his sleeves and get down from the podium. He was not a drive-by photo-op kid of guy. Whether it was the Graffiti Task Force, where he got out the paint can, or the Youth Intervention Network, where he mentored a family, Gary got in the trenches.

PREPARED: Gary lived the Boy Scout motto, ‘be prepared’. He kept you on your A-Game because in his world there was no slouching. He religiously studied his Board and Council packet and knew the issues. In fact, there seemed no issue, local or national, where Gary was at a loss for a studied observation.

CURIOUS: This was a man with an insatiable appetite to learn and to test his limits. He was the consummate risk taker comfortable pushing his comfort zone. If the mountain was out there Gary was game to climb it; be it the likes of running for Mayor or County Supervisor.

COMMUNICATOR: Gary was gregarious. He loved socializing and was an avid enthusiast of discourse. He thrived in the public square where ideas were vigorously debated.

CIVIL: I never knew Gary to demonize an opponent He could respectfully disagree.

INTEGRITY: Honor meant all to him.

INCLUSIVE: Gary always wanted to study the various ideas of an issue. He leaned on the conservative side but could surprise you as he was no ideologue. In this feverishly partisan society of overheated rhetoric, Gary was a refreshing breeze, outspoken but pragmatic. He sought solutions and balance.

Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Ford and of General Motors, wrote a book, ‘Where Have All the Leaders Gone?’ No doubt, there has been a recent paucity of them as any politician with spine seems a virtually extinct species. Nobody seems willing to tell us the truth or make the hard choices. Where are the Harry Trumans, ‘where the buck stops here?’

Agree or disagree with all his votes, Gary was a leader. He will be sorely missed.

My prayer is that his legacy be in setting the bar higher for us all.

Walter Ruehlig, Antioch

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