One year laterPublished 9:00am Tuesday, June 3, 2014
AHOSKIE – They came, not for curiosity’s sake, but rather out of love and respect for their former co-worker, friend and family member.
May 30, 2013 was a sad day for those that knew and loved Gary Paul Casper. He represented a lot of things to different people – a plumber, electrician, carpenter, maintenance man for the Town of Ahoskie’s Public Works Department; a music lover among those with whom he shared that gift; a faithful member of a local motorcycle club; a husband; a father; a grandfather; and a friend to many.
Each mourned his death from a year ago; many returned exactly 365 days later to remember this giant of a man and participate in an event that dedicated the new pavilion on the grounds of the Ahoskie Creek Recreation Complex in Casper’s honor.
“The people gathered here this morning are showing their love and respect for Gary,” said Casper’s co-worker and friend, Randy Miller. “This pavilion, this shelter is dedicated to the life of our friend. It was one year ago today, May 30, 2013, that Gary passed while we were setting the poles for the electrical service box for this pavilion.”
Miller said that particular day was like any other within the ranks of the Ahoskie Public Works Department.
“There was a lot to be done,” said Miller. “We needed to move two water cannons (irrigation system) on the soccer field. Overnight, an alarm had gone off on one of the generators located near the ballfields. That had to be done. Then we knew we had to finish working on the electrical panel for this pavilion.”
Miller, joined by Casper and Marty Stephenson, opted to prioritize the work. They first went to work making the needed repairs to the generator…..an interesting story on its own because of some angry wasps that painfully greeted Casper.
The water cannons were moved next followed by Casper and Stephenson leaving briefly to pick-up the lumber needed to build the electrical panel.
“We got started on that job around 1:30 p.m.,” Miller recalled. “We first had to move the holes for the poles for the panel because they we originally dug too close to the pavilion. Gary and I dug the holes and then Gary went to put the auger back in the truck when I heard Marty ask Gary if he was alright. And as we all know, Gary passed away a short time later.”
Miller praised his former co-worker as a, “fun-loving guy who loved life.”
“But that particular morning, the last thing on Gary’s mind was it would be his last day on Earth,” he noted. “As we worked that morning, he talked about some of the things he wanted to do, whether it was working to get his motorcycle back on the road….there were several other things he wanted to do. He didn’t know it would be his last day, just as all of us do not know when that time is coming.”
Miller queried what would his friend have done differently had he known his time on Earth was ending.
“What would you do differently if you knew that sometime in the next 24 hours you were going to meet God face-to-face,” Miller asked the audience. “Would you spend more time with your family? Would you love more? Would you change the way, the language, that you talk to people?
“Remember, you are not guaranteed tomorrow,” he continued. “One day all of us will see God face-to-face. When God calls, are you ready? What will he say to you?
“Just as Gary loved life and had fun, I pray that this pavilion will be used for that same thing….that people come here and enjoy fellowship with each other and enjoy life,” Miller added.
Stephenson also shared his thoughts about his former co-worker.
“Me and Gary were close,” he said. “We lost Gary one year ago today. The Lord took him without warning.
“In the days that followed, work never stopped on this pavilion,” Stephenson added. “I never stopped thinking about Sparky (Casper). I remember the last day of construction here. I slipped to the back and started to cry for my brother. As I looked up and saw the massive part of this shelter, it occurred to me that if a man is nice and decent, good to his family, he might get a headstone on his grave. I looked at this massive place and thought, what a great tombstone for Sparky.”
Stephenson thanked the town officials for “having a heart for his family to do something like this. Thank ya’ll for remembering Gary Paul Casper in this way.”
Stewart White, who manages the town’s wastewater treatment plant, said Casper was the type of person who was willing to lend a helping hand, at work or during his personal time.
“He was a good man; he was good for the town and would do anything for you,” White said.
Miller and Stephenson performed the honor of unveiling the plaque erected on the front corner post of the pavilion in Casper’s honor. They were joined by Casper’s wife, Linda; daughter, Emily; and son, Brian.
Casper, age 55 at the time of his death, was a native of Rockingham County, VA. He was the father of one other son, David, and three grandchildren.