MERCER, Wis. - Gary W. Schlais, our beloved friend, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, to his eternal reward. Gary is now with friends and family, who previously departed, including his mother, Marian Schlais; father, World War I veteran Dean Schlais; and brother, Dean Schlais Jr.
Chicago was Gary's childhood home, and he enjoyed spending time at their family cabin in Mercer. During his academic years, Gary demonstrated exceptional proficiency in both math and music. One summer, he worked at a local nursery; years later, Gary referred to it as his favorite job. Buying tulip bulbs from the nursery to gift to his mother was something that Gary loved doing. His family and the people in the community took great pleasure in the tulips' beauty when they bloomed in spring.
After graduating high school, Gary pursued his primary studies at Chicago Teachers College North, from September 3, 1961, to June 25, 1962. He joined the U.S. Air Force in October 1962, serving with great pride until his honorable discharge in October 1965. While in the service, he was stationed in Madison, where he served as a weather observer and displayed remarkable marksmanship skills. In 2015, as a veteran, he joined an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. The trip allowed him to spend a day among other veterans, be honored, pay tribute to the fallen, and visit our nation's memorials.
While employed at United Airlines Corporation, he served as an aircraft flight dispatcher and system control specialist until retirement. During this time, he fully embraced his passion for skiing and went on to explore the sport worldwide.
He had a passion for music, played various instruments, and was an exceptionally talented accordionist with a repertoire of more than 600 songs. He toured with his friends and fellow band members to play the accordion at various venues, and he was a frequent performer at nursing homes, where his music brought joy to the residents. In addition, Gary honored military members who passed by playing the bugle at veteran memorials.
Visiting the family cabin in Mercer was a source of great happiness for him, as evidenced by his license plate reading 'Up Nort.' He continued to make frequent trips to Mercer throughout his life, and eventually, after retiring, he chose to make it his permanent residence.
Gary had many friends and was an active community member, participating in various activities through the local senior center and as a member of the American Legion. He generously supported many organizations, including the Mercer Lion's Club. Gary also became a member of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, where he made a commitment to uphold his baptismal vows.
Gary exhibited exceptional generosity and kindness toward others throughout his life. A dedicated proponent of the Mercer School, he established the Gary Schlais Family Scholarship Fund to grant annual scholarships to Mercer students. Having only one Goddaughter, and no biological children, he treated Mercer graduates as if they were his own by attending many athletic events, purchasing food for athletes, following their games away from home, and providing a substantial amount of money for scholarships.
Let us honor Gary by emulating his example of providing aid, kindness and compassion to others. Although Gary will be profoundly missed, his legacy will endure, and he will always be cherished, loved and remembered.
A celebration of Gary's life will be held at 11 a.m., on Saturday, April 15, at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, 336 E. Aurora St., in Ironwood, Michigan, with a reception to follow at the church.
Instead of sending flowers, contributions can be made to the Gary Schlais Family Scholarship Fund at the time of the funeral.
Friends may leave condolences and tributes to Gary's family online at mckevittpatrickfuneralhome.com.
The family has chosen McKevitt-Patrick Funeral Home of Ironwood to honor Gary's legacy of life.