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Gary Wiist

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Gary Wiist passed away on November 12th, 2014.

Gary battled with cancer for the last several months. After the first wave of treatment over the last two months, the disease failed to go into remission, and it came back even stronger. At that point Gary went home to die, in the care of a sister and hospice nurses. In the face of certain slow death, he was a remarkable model of courage and positive attitude.

He was known here as user "BeachBum". Gary skydived at Aggies Over Texas (AOT) in Bryan, Texas, Skydive Houston in Waller, Texas, and Skydive Westside, in Sealy, Texas. He could never jump a lot because he had inner ear problems which limited him to just one or two jumps per day. If he did more, the build up of pressure caused him too much pain. Numerous doctor visits could never solve this problem. But despite this handicap, he loved skydiving too much to quit altogether. So he would show up, make a jump or two, and then hang out the rest of the day with his friends. He was tall and skinny so he used to be kind of floaty in freefall. But he bought a tight, slick jump suit, and experimented with his body position to increase his speed so he could do RW with big boys, and was successful at it.

Gary was also known for cooking chili at the AOT dropzone. He would spend days beforehand finding the right kinds of ingredients, and would then on the weekend he would nurse the cooking all day long. He made two pots; one hot and spicy, and one mild for those who couldn't handle hot. At the end of the day everyone had all the delicious chili they could eat.

He loved to skydive, fish and surf, and had many friends in each of those communities. His wishes are to be cremated, and to have his ashes released in freefall over the beach where he loved to fish and surf. I'm told that Gary never used bait to catch his fish, believing in the use of only artificial lures.

Gary's best skydiving friend was John Choate, who also died of cancer 10 years ago. They went on epic camping and fishing trips together to far-flung places like Alaska.

One of the things Gary did to serve his love of beaches was to gather up Christmas trees every January, and stake them out in rows on the beach, to promote the growth of sand dunes to prevent erosion. He figured out the best way to arrange them to catch the blowing sand. There are miles of Texas beaches today that have been preserved because of his efforts over the years.

Gary also served a year in Iraq as a civilian contractor, maintaining computers and networks on a military base.

He tells a good story of how he came to have such an unusual last name with two consecutive i's. His ancestors were German immigrants who came to America through Ellis Island. When they filled out their paperwork they spelled their name the German way, as Wüst, using a "u" with an umlaut over it (two dots). Some immigration official didn't understand that character and changed the umlaut-u into two i's, and thereafter the family name became Wiist.

A group of friends gathered at his house today to start cleaning it out so it can be sold, and we ran across many items which must have evoked precious childhood memories for him, to have saved them all these years: a rocking horse, a cub scout tie clasp, toy soldiers, matchbox cars, and so on. I don't know all of his last wishes, but a female skydiver came by to pick up a favorite surf board that Gary wanted her to have.

His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/gary.beachbum

Those who knew him, please add your own special memories here of Gary.

Gary Wiist:
[inline Gary_Wiist.JPG]

Blue Skies, Gary. We love you.

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I'm sorry to hear that. I knew he was sick, but had hoped that time would be kinder. Gary was always upbeat, always nice, always happy with what was, not looking at what wasn't.

Wendy P.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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I have so many memories of Gary and the impact he made on my life. I met him at Skydive Aggieland and he was one of the few people I could fly with in the beginning since I floated so much. He named me and my two friends (also small girls) the Sky Pixies and always joked about how he stayed thin to be able to fly with the Pixies. He was on my first and only helicopter jump and he made fun of me for screaming when we left the door. Ha ha! As the years went by I began having ear problems similar to his and after the first surgery my skydiving became limited like his. So, I donned ear plugs and a wet suit and attempted to surf. Gary took me under his wing and loaned me one of his surf boards. We walked out into the surf and when we got to the waves I pretty much became a flailing mess. He showed me how to get past them and together we got out there and staged for the waves. He showed me how to sit on the board (quite a challenge ha ha!) and how to pick a good wave. I still remember him holding the board like a father holds the bike for a child their first time without training wheels. He shot me into a wave which surged me forward. He cheered me on telling me to get up and when I tried, it was a hilarious ass over tea kettle acrobatics display. When it was all over I wanted to try again but was thoroughly exhausted. I tried and tried to get back out there but just couldn't. He then swam ahead of me, told me to grab his foot, and towed me out there so I could have one more try. Again, ass over tea kettle but this time I caught the wave by myself. We tried to go out again a few weeks later but the weather got too bad for a beginner and shortly after that I moved out of state. We stayed in contact though, talking about surfing, skydiving, me getting married to the love of my life, flying, me having ear surgery two more times, and him having cancer and not much time left… I forever will miss him and how he treated me and everyone, despite our setbacks, like the most important people he had ever been around. He was a true friend, a guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, a tow out to sea and the push you needed to get out into that wave. While he will not be there to tow me out the next time I challenge the ocean, he will be the strength within me that pushes me to get out there, catch that wave, get off my knees, and stand up. Thank you Gary, for living your life to the fullest and inspiring me to do the same.

-Beach Bums Forever

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Yesterday I picked up a new toy, and I really wanted to call Gary. I wanted to talk about it, get his advice, and plan a day to take it out. He was a wealth of knowledge, and always so helpful. Gary was a great man. Blue skies. Miss you buddy.

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Gary's final wishes have been fulfilled, thanks to Kay Choate who organized the event.

Gary was an avid fisherman, surfer and skydiver, among other pursuits. In order to combine his love for all three of these things, he wished to have his cremated remains released in freefall over the beach, where he often fished and surfed. This was done last weekend with a successful ash dive, and gathering of skydiving, fishing and surfing friends on the beach at Port Aransas, Texas.

Gary's ash dive photos and video:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yuw438dm00cvt0c/AABDpuacr3LUoY5ey4NJox22a?dl=0

God speed, Gary.

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Divers: Bill Lee with ash bag, R.D. Latimer with video, Susan Fordyce, Scott Cook, Jim Culhane.

Scott is a relatively "new" jumper who hasn't known Gary that long. But when Gary was getting weak with his illness, he expressed the urge to get out and go canoeing one last time. Scott invited him out an a paddling trip and took care of him. That endeared Scott to Gary, and to everyone else, and earned him an honorary spot on the ash dive. Scott is the guy with the nice beard.

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