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In Memoriam ~ Jeffery Gair ’66

Jeffery A Gair ’66

Jeffery A Gair, 72, of Coon Rapids, MN died on January 1st, 2021.

He was born a “blue eyed observer” on February 6th, 1948 in Minneapolis, MN to Florence and Norbert Gair. He was raised with two brothers and five sisters in an Irish/German/Norwegian and very much Catholic family.

Jeff attended De LaSalle (Minneapolis, MN) and Saint John’s Preparatory Schools (Collegeville, MN) where he excelled in speed skating, hockey, and clowning around in class. He enlisted in the US Air Force (1966-1970) where he served as surgical technician and met his first wife Kathleen (Kiffy). Together, they had Matt and Ben who knew him to be a winter sports enthusiast and an engaged dad and hockey coach out on the ice. He was also an avid cross-country skier and marathon-triathlon competitor (which he often completed with his brother, travel mate, and partner-in-crime, Mike Gair).

After his time in the Air Force, he earned his BA in Psychology on the GI bill; and put that to use serving as a social worker for Hennepin County. This was the starting place for a lifetime of public service, mentorship, and advocacy for veterans and people suffering from mental illness and chemical dependency. His service was motivated by his personal battles with mental illness and alcohol use disorder. At age 30, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and remained sober for 32 years with regular attendance at AA meetings (sometimes 6 or 7 times per week), close sponsorship, and a whole lotta self-reflection, care, and investment. He relapsed for 2.5 years, but never lost touch with his AA sponsor, Dan; and by golly if his AA community didn’t pick him up and guide him toward sobriety for the last 7 years of his life. He lived with his Big Book, the Serenity Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary.

Those who know him share how he was generous, gentle, thoughtful, and caring. Good thing for those attributes because without them, it’s doubtful he’d have ended up marrying Judy, “[his] feisty wife, the love of [his] life.” (He chose liver and onions for their first date.) Together, they had Joey and Anne, who remember him most for his goofy off-the-cuff remarks, his fervent support (and boasting) of all of their endeavors and achievements, and his spoiling them (and all other kids who held a piece of his heart) with all things good.

He cherished Minnesota camping trips from the Great Plains to the Great Lakes to the Mighty Mississippi with his kids, brothers, and pets; and used any chance he got in nature for self-reflection and for connecting with family. He looked forward to getting together with his AA sponsor Mike on Monday and Thursday nights, where they ate pizza or mac ‘n cheese over a game (or three or five) of cribbage. (He practiced on his phone in his spare time, while listening to extra loud classical music.) He loved his time at the YMCA, especially the hot tubbing and sauna-ing; and he had a whole crew of friends there as well. (It was hard not to befriend him with his big ‘ol smile and friendly demeanor.) He donated over 1,000 hours of time to the Disabled American Veterans, and was always looking for ways to give to others. Generosity is an understatement when it comes to the time, energy, and love he shared with those he cared about.

He spent hours each day working toward self-improvement and self-love, whether that be meditating, prayer, time with his service dog (Louie), therapy, journaling, sending texts/emails/hand-written letters to brighten others’ days, making gratitude lists, and so on. He fought harder for his sanity than anyone we know has fought for anything–but when your wires are tired the way his were, even that doesn’t cut it. He went to the St. Cloud VA Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, hopeful for relief from his OCD, “a 24/7 job [he] never wanted.” It was there that he died by suicide, and now rests easy. He’s “happy, joyous, and free” at last.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Judith Markus Gair; children, Matthew (Angela) Gair, Benjamin (Mary) Gair, Joseph Gair ‘12 (Mary Andorfer), and Anne Gair; his grandchildren Ashtyn (Trenton), Benjamin, Cecilia, Charlie, and Joan; his sister-in-law, Ellen Gair; his siblings Michael (Sheila) Gair, Mary Gair, Teresa (Louis) Klingelhoets, Kathy Frederick, Ann (Rob) Gair, Geri (Ruben) Lopez; his service dog, Louie, his AA sponsors, and many nieces, nephews, and dear friends. He is preceded in death by his father, Norbert Gair; his mother, Florence Gair; and his brother, David Gair.

There will be a private memorial service and private interment arranged by Bradshaw Funeral Home.