Gary Edd DeFries was born April 3, 1937 to William Edward “Edd” DeFries & Lyda Mae Farley DeFries in St. Francis, Kansas, joining older sisters Loretta & Jean. His first years were spent on the family’s farm outside Goodland before moving into town when he started school. He got his 1st dog, Mike, at that time, and his father had him try his hand at driving a tractor when he was only 4 years old. He went through all his years of schooling in Goodland, raising chickens in FFA in high school & spending the summers farming wheat with his father. He got pretty good at shooting jack rabbits & rattle snakes out in the wheat fields! After his beloved Mike died, he found another friend in his dog Taffy, who Gary built a fine dog house for as an FFA project.
After graduating from Goodland High School in 1955, where Gary was active in Youth for Christ, Gary went to Minnesota Bible College where he played clarinet for the University of Minnesota band. He then went to Denver University where he earned his bachelor’s followed by studies in Europe. While a student at Uppsala University in Sweden, he met his wife Reidun while on a ski trip. They married in the summer of 1962, followed by a hitchhiking honeymoon across Europe. Before their oldest son, William Arvid, was born in June of 1963, they moved back to Goodland. Heeding his mother’s encouragement to become a preacher, Gary moved his family to New Brighton, Minnesota where he attended United Theological Seminary. During this time 2 more children joined the family: Birger Cox (Erik) in December of 1964, and Anita Kirsten in March of 1966.
After graduating from seminary, Gary was called to preach at Bethany Christian Church in Westminster, Colorado. He studied gerontology during this time, which led to a job at a nursing home in Jacksonville, Illinois, where Erik started school. The family then moved to Milwaukee where Gary managed housing for the Southern Baptist Convention. Sadly, during this time the couple’s marriage ended in divorce, and Gary gained custody of his 3 children, a rare occurrence for a father in 1972. He & the children then moved to Madison & on to Port Washington, Wisconsin for a few years, and then on to Idaho Springs, Colorado in 1975, where Gary was in business for himself and continued to lease his wheat farm in Goodland.
In 1977 Gary accepted the call to preach at the Christian Church in Ault, Colorado, where he and his boys farmed wheat between Pierce & Nunn, and his boys followed in his footsteps by joining the Highland FFA Chapter. In 1980 his oldest son joined the Marines, and soon after he drove his younger children to Seymour, Tennessee to attend a Christian boarding school. He preached in several small churches in Tennessee, Kentucky & Virginia throughout the eighties.
Ever interested in exploring new places, Gary took his family on many a trip to various interesting nooks & crannies across the U.S.A., and he even spent a few years as a long-haul truck driver. He was instrumental in helping his children as they completed their high school diplomas and embarked on careers and further education, and he & his daughter drove the Alcan when she moved there to teach in Alaska. Gary was always there to advise & encourage all of his children, spurring them on to grow in their faith and their walk with the Lord. He was the best counselor & friend, always inspiring his children to achieve more than they ever thought they could. He was a man of so many talents, ever learning and never bored. He had a brilliant mind, and was a natural teacher; Gary was multi-lingual, and was still learning languages in his eighties. Much to the joy of his children, he and their mother became good friends in the last few years of Gary’s life, bringing healing & restoration to all of their hearts. Gary continued in ministry to the end of his days on this earth, lifting all those he loved in prayer to the Lord. He has taken his last journey to be with his Lord & Savior, and though he will be greatly missed, his family rejoices with him on his Homecoming.
Gary is survived by his children & their spouses, Bill & Joy, Erik, and Kirsten & Jim; his 1st wife, Reidun, & widow, Elizabeth; nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Thank you for rearing us up, and for all you taught & instilled in us, Daddy. We shall see you in the Morning.