Family, friends remember former Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Every afternoon Jenny Wall would call her husband, Gary, on her way home from work.
“He would answer, ‘Is this the love of my life? Is this my sweetheart?’” Jenny Wall said. “Now, there is no one to call and tell that I am on my way home, and that hurts. He was a great partner and a very interesting man. The impact he had on people was stunning.”
On July 14, the former Routt County sheriff, who was 76, collapsed at his home. Jenny ran to a neighbor’s house for help, and they called the North Routt ambulance. He was transported to Yampa Valley Medial Center then he was flown to Denver on July 15. His family decided to take him off of life support, and Gary Wall died at 2 a.m. Monday, July 16.
Jenny said her husband suffered a brain hemorrhage, and doctors believe Gary was suffering from a condition where proteins build up on the walls of the arteries in the brain increasing the risk for a hemorrhage.
Jenny said the symptoms started showing up just before Wall lost his re-election bid in 2010, but that the condition can’t be fully diagnosed without an autopsy.
Gary’s family said he was a competitive distance runner for more than 40 years, an accomplished sailor, skier and horseman, a gardener, talented chef and a mechanic. Family members also described Gary as a passionate advocate for people’s individual and constitutional rights, a political junkie and a science nerd.
Jenny said she has decided to donate Gary’s body to science, something she thinks her husband of 10 years would have liked. Her hope is that it might help others.
Gary came to Colorado in the 1960s. He worked as a patrolman and detective in Aspen and also served as chief of police in Vail from 1973 to 1979 before leaving law enforcement for a period of years.
“We go way back,” said Dave Bustos, former Routt County undersheriff. “He was a gentle person. He liked to stir the pot a little bit, but he was always doing it for the right reasons. He enjoyed making sure that law enforcement towed the line, and sometimes, the other departments didn’t like that.”
Between his stints in Vail and Steamboat, Gary moved to Port Townsend, Washington, where he owned and operated the successful La Fonda Mexican Restaurant for five years. He had grown up in nearby Seattle.
In 1985, he moved to Tempe, Arizona, where he continued to work in the restaurant business but also began working as a private investigator, something he would do for 15 years. He discovered Steamboat Springs after a friend, who was a lawyer, gave him a call and asked him to work on a case here. Gary quickly fell in love with the area and decided to move here in 2000.
In 2006, Gary ran for Routt County sheriff and won. He served from 2006 to 2010.
“My dad was a really good judge of character, and you can see that in the quality of people in his life,” said Gary’s son Theron Wall. “I think he was disappointed that he wasn’t re-elected because he was committed to his ideals and his philosophy about law enforcement. But he was even more disappointed because he cared about the people who worked for him, and the community he served. He felt like he had let them down.”
Gary leaves behind Jenny, his wife of 10 years, and his sons from his first marriage, Theron of Prescott, Arizona, and Kalon, of Buena Vista. Gary also leaves behind a stepdaughter, Sarah Wilson of Everett, Washington, and stepson Ryan Wilson, of Humble, Texas. He had three grandchildren, Taban, Emma and Thea Wall.
“He always wanted us to know that he loved us,” Theron said. ‘It was very important to him, and he would always say, ‘I just need you to know.’”
A memorial service celebrating Gary Wall’s life is slated for 3 p.m. Aug. 4 at the North Routt Community Charter School, followed by a barbecue at the Wall’s home. Kalon, who is an executive chef, will do the cooking.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Gary’s name to LiftUp of Routt County, where he volunteered.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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