Gareth Brydon Geering of Hendersonville, N.C., died March 16, 2020, at age 92. Loved for his easygoing humor and admired for his grit, he was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather who took great pleasure in the morning papers, his cats, bacon and toast with jam, “Sixty Minutes,” a neighborhood walk under a blue sky, Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra, all forms of cookies, the Chicago Cubs and Duke basketball, bargain wine sipped from a juice glass, a well-crafted spreadsheet, the interests and pursuits of his family members, and a perfectly timed wisecrack.
Raised almost entirely by his mother, Eleanor Ocheltree Marino, Gareth set out to be the best family man ever ¬– and succeeded. Although a chef he was not, he bathed toddlers, vacuumed floors and washed dishes in an era when men rarely participated in such aspects of domestic life. When his children were teenagers, he hardly complained at all when they needed a 5 a.m. ride to a hockey game, or a cheerleader during hours-long swim meets, or an enthusiastic audience member at an orchestra or band concert. He took pride in his partnership with his wife of 58 years, Isabella Dennison Geering. And he delighted in the antics of his pets. At the home in Northbrook, Ill., where he and Denny raised their children, he would often play an after-work game of “chase the stick” in the backyard with his most adored cat, Jack.
He was born in Berkeley, Calif., on July 23, 1927, and lived his early years there in a house next to his maternal grandparents’ home. He remembered walking the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day, May 27, 1937, with his father, Henry. When his parents divorced, his mother moved Gareth and his younger sister, Deborah, to Carmel, Calif., to work in her sister Dorothy’s dress shop. His resourceful mother eventually became a real estate broker, moving her family from house to house in the scenic ocean community to save money. Gareth pitched in with jobs such as a bowling alley pin-setter, a bellhop, a Western Union delivery boy, and a sardine cutter on Cannery Row.
He graduated from Carmel High School in 1945, with no career plans other than a looming draft date. At his mother’s suggestion, he sought and received an appointment to the new U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Those years, training at school and traveling the world as a cadet midshipman, became fodder for many of his favorite stories. After graduation and a little loitering back at his mother’s house in Carmel, he joined the Navy to serve on a merchant ship ¬– but was instead assigned to an aircraft carrier, the USS Valley Forge, in the days leading up to and during the Korean War. He served as a legal clerk and then as legal officer.
He received a discharge in 1952 as lieutenant junior grade and returned to California, where he happened into the insurance industry as a claims adjuster with Industrial Indemnity. He joined Allstate Insurance in 1962, only to be relocated to its Chicago-area headquarters the next year with his wife and their 6-week-old son, Christopher. He ultimately became vice president of the commercial claims division of the company, helping its transition to the computer age by teaching himself at home on an early-model desktop computer. Just 56 at his retirement in 1984, he later freelanced as a retirement planner, eager to share the strategies he had learned, and as an insurance and claims settlement consultant.
Gareth and Denny moved to Flat Rock, N.C., in 1991 to build their dream home on a large wooded lot in a golf community. Gareth loved to golf, cut his own firewood (often in canvas sneakers, to the horror of his grown children), and just sit in his sun room to watch the laurels bloom and the squirrels raid the bird feeders. For decades he volunteered as a tax preparer through AARP, and later he also gave his time to Legal Aid, the Village of Flat Rock, N.C., and the Kenmure property owners’ association.
For health reasons, the couple relocated to Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville, N.C., in 2010. Generous with his good cheer, wry humor, sage advice, frequent calls and e-mails, newspaper clippings and other gifts, he was our beloved patriarch, our guidelight, our inspiration, our friend.
In addition to his wife and his son Christopher, of Richmond Heights, Mo., he is survived by two daughters, Deborah Geering of Decatur, Ga., and Lisa Geering Tomoff of Riverside, Calif., a daughter-in-law, Julianne Rainbolt, sons-in-law Kiril Tomoff and David Nash, grandchildren Gareth Geering, Martha Geering, Lilia Tomoff, and Wilder Nash, a sister, Deborah McMillan of New York City, siblings-in-law Mary Lee and John Birmingham of Fort Collins, Co., and Alice Szwarce and Ralph Rhyne of Snellville, Ga., and several nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. In his honor, donations may be made to Blue Ridge Humane Society or to MemoryCare Inc. of Asheville, N.C. Or just raise a glass of milk and an oatmeal-raisin cookie to the memory of a truly wonderful man.
No formal services are planned at this time.
Blue Ridge Humane Society or MemoryCare of Asheville
Help tell the story of Gareth by contributing to the Life Event Timeline. Upload the photo of an event...Post an Event