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Former Greene County agriculture teacher, trucker, Gary Deer, Sr., dead at 87

In Children and Family, Dayton Ohio News, obituary on July 2, 2020 at 5:35 am

Gary Deer Sr., of Jamestown, Ohio, passed away this week at the age of 87. Gary is pictured here with younger son Gery and their 1967 International 1600 show truck at the 2019 Caesar’s Ford Summerfest. Photo Courtesy Greene County Parks & Recreation.

Some people are farmers or mechanics. Others are truckers or teachers. Still more are welders and masons. Gary Deer, Sr., of Jamestown, Ohio, was all of those things – and more. Born and raised at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the tiny village of Hanging Rock, Ohio, he came north in 1951 with his wife Lois in search of a better life. Gary passed away on July 1, 2020, at the age of 87 after a long battle with complications from Parkinson’s disease. This story, though, isn’t about how he died, but how he lived. 

When he first came to Dayton, Gary got a job at AT&T but went on to work nearly 20 years as a machinist with NCR. Gary and Lois raised two children, Gary, Jr., and Cathy, in Fairborn, before settling in 1977 on a small farm outside Jamestown where their younger son, Gery, grew up.

Gary was the original master of the “side hustle,” as it’s known today, making a lifelong career of creatively applying his skills and talents to support his family. Over the years, he hauled scrap iron, worked on cars, drove trucks, and poured concrete. 

In the late 1960s, Gary became a teacher of vocational agriculture and heavy equipment mechanics at the Greene County Joint Vocational School (now the Greene County Career Center). The position included advising students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and his teaching style and fatherly image created a fierce loyalty and respect from them, many of whom became lifelong family friends. 

But to many, he may be best known as the “Sawdust Man,” because he started hauling sawdust in 1961 under the name “Gary Deer & Son,” updated to “Sons” when Gery came along. The business is still operated today by Gary, Jr., and supplies sawdust for bedding to some of the most prominent stables and dairies in the area, including Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Gary never forgot what it was like to grow up with nothing. He and his family always worked to help others, sponsoring families at Christmas, giving to various charities, and helping out those around them however they could. (Read the story about the Deer family’s Christmas philanthropy, now free from Amazon Kindle – “A Special Place at a Special Time” by Gery Deer)

His family kept him as active as possible in his later years, hanging out with the family band, The Brothers & Co., or attending car shows with their 1967 International show truck. He was a weekly regular at the Antioch Wellness Center where he continued his physical therapy to help maintain his strength and mobility as his Parkinson’s advanced.

“We should all try to remember how those we’ve lost stay with us; not from “things” they leave behind, but in how they made us who we are, like a tapestry of life experiences,” younger son, Gery, shared. “Dad taught me self-reliance but more than that, he will be with me every time I feel like giving up – because he never did. He showed me, by example, how to use every skill and talent I have to provide for myself and my family.”

“When I look back later at what I’ve written and documented through photos and videos about my time looking after him, I want to be reminded of what mattered most. Not how he died, but how he lived. He was never perfect, but he was always there. And I guess, in my own way, he always will be. But our lives will never be the same without him. We’ll see you on the flip-side, ‘Sawdust Man.’”

Gary’s wife of 60 years, Lois, passed away in 2011 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his three children, Gary Deer, Jr. (67), Cathy Wolf (64), and Gery Deer (52), all from the Jamestown area, and their respective spouses, Diana, Robert, and Barbara. He also leaves behind a sister, Yvonne Kay Hughes (84) of Ironton, Ohio, 5 grandchildren – Melissa Van Oss, Jessica Simmons, Jodi Castillo, Tiffany Knapp, and Henry Dill, (and their spouses), 7 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. 

SERVICES: Handled by Powers-Kell Funeral Home (WEBSITE/OBIT) Tuesday, July 7, 2020 – Public Graveside – Woodlawn Cemetery in Bowersville, Ohio.  – Viewing/Visitation 10AM / Service Starts 11AM. Followed by a Celebration Open House at Gery Deer’s home, 3604 N Lakeshore Dr., Jamestown, Ohio 45335. Call 937-675-6169 for information.

For those wishing to pay their respects from a distance, in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the Parkinson’s Foundation or the Greene County Council on Aging

The Deer family would also like to thank the following people as well as countless others for their contributions during Gary’s illness and care: Julie Barth, Debra Bays, Ed Jones, Robert Wolf, Rob Simmons, Lynn Martin, Bette Byerly, Misty Myers, New Jasper Township Fire & Rescue, and Dr. Courtney Stroble. 

Check out our photo gallery of Gary from over the years.

Fifty Years and Still Trucking

In Business, Economy, Education, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, State News, Uncategorized on September 19, 2012 at 7:07 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Over the last few years many small businesses fell apart as a result of the recession. But one family business in Jamestown is celebrating a half-century of service with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

In the summer of 1962 my father, Gary Deer, Sr., was working the machine shops at the great NCR, laying concrete on his off hours and helping my mother, Lois, raise my brother Gary, Jr., and sister Cathy (I wasn’t quite on anyone’s radar just yet). Money was always tight, but a toolbox full of skills always seemed to provide him with ways to pay the bills, however unconventional his blend of work.

It was around that time, armed only a truck and a scoop shovel, he was hired to haul a load of sawdust from Indiana to a greenhouse in Fairborn. Sawdust was used for landscaping and mixed with potting soil and mulch for bagging trees and other plants. Never one to turn down work, he agreed and that first load of wood shavings and dust led to a job that would support his family for many years to come.

Gary Deer and Son was the name he first gave his business, which included the cement work at the time. Fifty years later, there’s an “s” on the end, but it’s still very much in business and keeping my father and brother busy.

I grew up in the seat of an International Harvester grain truck. It was a beast of a vehicle, nicknamed the “binder” because of its lack power steering, a hand-actuated dump bed with the lever positioned outside and behind the cab and shaky, wooden sideboards. The truck held somewhere around 7,500 pounds of sawdust and always seemed to be in demand by dairies, horse stables and livestock farms.

One of dad’s earliest customers was Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs. Even today, the popular tourist spot uses the clean, dry sawdust Dad supplies in the barns and around the livestock areas.

Over the last half-century, it’s been a common sight along US 35 to see one of Dad’s signature red (and for a time blue) trucks tarped down in red, white and blue rumbling down the highway. But you can’t imagine what it was like growing up and trying to explain your family’s business to teachers and other kids (particularly those from the city).

While taking a business class at Greeneview High School during my freshman year, we were asked to write a report about a chosen occupation we might pursue. Having no clue yet as to what I wanted to be when I grew up, I decided to write about Dad’s business – assuming I’d eventually be part of the business.

In the essay, I explained that sawdust was a major commodity within the agricultural, livestock and lumber industries. It’s a by-product of the wood finishing process in pallet shops and lumber yards, essentially vacuumed from beneath the saw tables and piped into a pile or building for storage. The mill can then sell off the sawdust at a premium, making money from what was basically waste material.

I went on to explain how grain trucks, semi trailers and wagons are used to then transport the material to dairies and stables to be resold as bedding. People make money by reselling the material, something my father and brother have now been doing for decades. The irony here was that the teacher gave me a “D,” not for my writing ability, but instead citing that sawdust hauling was, “not a viable career.”

Having effectively insulted my family business and our livelihood, the teacher was strongly encouraged by a higher power to change my grade and I wonder what he’d say today? That was more than a quarter-century ago and, though many businesses have dried up and blown away, Dad’s is still going, there’s even a website, garydeerandsons.com.

But I can’t help thinking sometimes about how things worked out, how random that first call was back in 1962 and where it led for my parents. It taught me that sometimes the simplest of circumstances hold opportunities you can’t even yet imagine. Mom and Dad created and managed the business on their own, with no help from anyone, and we are all forever grateful.