Gary Lorenzen

Gary Lorenzen- March 2000

After a nearly nine-month struggle against metastatic pancreatic cancer, Gary Lorenzen passed away.

A 1976 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Gary returned there to fly and to teach navigation and physics after receiving his Masters degree in physics at MIT. In 1995, he took command of the 17th Training Support Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base. His unit received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and contributed to the 17th Training Wing recognition as the best wing in the Air Force. On August 1, 1999 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was a warrior to the end. Gary had attained the rank of Colonel. At his funeral ceremony, after presentation of the Legion of Merit and medals to his family, he was honored by the Air Force with the missing-man formation jet fly-by and a military gun salute.

Gary is survived by his wife Deborah and two sons Grant and Wes. Gary is loved (and missed) by his parents, family, friends and colleagues. His strength, faith and grace were infectious, and have become a part of our lives.

In one of the three eulogies given at the memorial service, the following poem was read:

A sickly man, my uncle
I said goodbye sincerely for I might not
Say hello to him again
With a brave face he will battle the enemy
And the enemy will win.

-Nathan Lorenzen (12)

A Few Words at Gary’s Funeral

March 16, 2000

I’m Lee Lorenzen, Gary’s younger brother by 5 years. I’ve come here today with my wife Julie and my two sons Matthew and Nathan from our home in Pacific Grove, California.

A short 11 months ago, for my 40th birthday, when my parents were still living in Pacific Grove, my wife arranged for my sister Danna from Tennessee and my brothers Jay and Gary from Colorado, to come out for the weekend.

This surprise visit and mini-family reunion was a very happy occasion and the first time in several years that my parents, my sister, my brothers and I had been together all at the same time. Photographs from this weekend show a very happy and healthy group of siblings and family members enjoying each other’s company in the warm sunshine of the California coastline.

Everyone had a great time of sharing, playing on the beach and laughing together.

Although we were at sea level, this time together was an emotional mountaintop experience. Since then, you all know the valley that we have descended into together. From a diagnosis in July, an operation in August, a first wave of chemotherapy starting in September, blood clots in October, a gentler downward slope during the holidays, a steeper decline in the new year, a second attempt at chemotherapy starting a few weeks ago, weight loss, weakness, pain and death.

Throughout this downward passage, Gary has been supported by God, by family and by friends. He has amazed and inspired us with His faith and grace. Last year’s Christmas celebration and Gary and my Mom’s birthday on December 23 gave us extra reasons for a bigger family reunion that brought us siblings all together again.

I remember especially an evening of singing, praying in the basement and crying together.

It was a time of great emotional weight that touched everyone in different ways. One measure of the depth of feelings at this time was a heartfelt, four-line poem my son Nathan wrote for his class after he got back to school in January.

He titled it GoodBye. It reads:

A sickly man, my uncle
I said goodbye sincerely for I might not say hello to him again
With a brave face he will battle the enemy
And the enemy will win.

In a way, Nathan was right, he didn’t get a chance to say hello to Gary again and despite Gary’s brave fight the cancer enemy won this battle.

So now all my siblings have gathered again. This time we stand more than a mile above sea level in view of Colorado mountain tops but with our spirits sunk lower than the level of Death Valley.

Shortly, I will stand on a mountain side and bury my brother.

I will weep. Right now Death has a victory, and we feel the sting. The enemy has won.

However we have hope, as 1st Corinthians promises, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Today, we cry and mourn our loss. As Jesus wept over Lazurus, we weep over Gary. In this valley of the shadow of death we are comforted that we will one day ascend to a new home, have the ultimate family reunion, rejoice in a time when we will all say hello again and “God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.”

We love you Gary. And, thanks be to God, we will gather again.


Pancreatic cancer is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death by the year 2020

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