Though the man's gaming style was not to my taste, his work certainly made its impression on me. He improved my vocabulary, teaching me words like "milieu" and "dwoemer" through his rulebooks; through his bibliography and recommended reading lists he introduced me to some of my favorite fantasy authors, Fritz Lieber and Robert E. Howard. It wouldn't be going too far to say that the man's work was a significant inspiration to me, and had a considerable impact on my life. In fact, without the work that he created, I think it's fair to imagine that many things which have shaped the geek subculture came into existence because of his influence, such as World of Warcraft (born out of Warcraft, which was born out of Warhammer, which was born out of D&D). He suffered through a lot of legal battles and unfair treatment over the property he created with Dave Arneson, and ended up being unjustly kicked out of his own company. Yet from what I've seen of him, he was open and kind toward his fans and colleagues. He came to The Source in St. Paul once while I was there, and I watched him run a D&D game for a little while. I think it would have struck me as odd to see a white-bearded old man playing a roleplaying game had I not already been prepared for it by seeing our elder friend Vern play Campaign, or met renowned fantasy artist and southern gentleman Larry Elmore, whose artwork will forever in my mind be associated with Dungeons & Dragons.
Sadly, the lives of gamers tend not to be so long. A few other industry creators and professionals of note are in poor health, from what I read on RPGnet. Gamers in general are not known for the good shape of their bodies. So Gary's passing comes as another warning to me - I've been eighty pounds overweight for a while now, and with a father who was diabetic, I'm really pushing my luck.
I don't know what Gary's personal beliefs were, so I can't comment on his ultimate destination. If you'll forgive me for being a bit cheesy and maudlin, all I can do is raise a tankard, say a fond farewell, and thank Uncle Gary for all the fun.
EDIT, Again: I went to the TrollLords website, publishers of Castles & Crusades, and one of the forum posters quoted the last e-mail he received from Gary, on January 16:
Thank You, Michael,
All I am is another fellow human that has at last, after many wrong paths and failed attenpts, found Jesus Christ.
Via con dios,
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16
Moreover, here is one Christian gamer's story about Gary, both his regrets and his triumphs.
Praise God. We'll see you on that far shore in the House of the Lord.