HAMILTON — Gary Ray Hettrick died Dec. 5, 2020, due to onset complications from pulmonary fibrosis. He was 73.
A lifelong resident of Hamilton, Gary was born Nov. 1, 1947, to William and Anna (née Foudray). He was the youngest of four children, his older siblings being Shirley, Margaret (“Marty”), and William Jr. After graduating from Hamilton High School in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps that July. Gary was never deployed, but served his country honorably while stationed in Hawaii.
Upon return from the Marines, Gary enrolled at the University of Montana (go Grizz!). Receiving his bachelor’s degree, he was then accepted at Columbia University (NY), where he earned a Master’s of Arts in Economics. After graduate school he settled back in the Bitterroot Valley, where he began work with the U.S. Forest Service as a smoke jumper, having completed over 53 jumps, working fires across Montana, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and many more. One too many broken bones resulted in trading in his parachute for a camera, taking a position at Rocky Mountain Labs (RML) serving over 27 years in the visual, medical arts, and scientific photography department. It was at RML where he also met his wife, Joy. They married in 2004.
Gary was a man of many interests and hobbies. One of Gary’s proudest accomplishments came in 2012, after his retirement, when he published an article in “Montana: The Magazine of Western History” about RML’s role in a yellow fever vaccine during World War II. His passion for the outdoors, natural resources, and the environment, led to an annual canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Minnesota or mountain biking trips in Moab. He was an avid hiker and photographer, snapping incredible photographs including Hale-Bopp Comet in 1997. Every summer and fall you could find him at local events donating his time either stirring a pot of apple butter at Apple Days, or judging the best jar of dill pickles at the Ravalli County Fair.
Gary is survived by his wife of 16 years, Joy McClure; his step-daughter, Tara Wehrly (Tim Greek) of Hamilton; and his three grandchildren, Sidney, Chloe and Naomi; and stepdaughter, Kelley (Andy) Mork of Willmar, Minnesota. He was preceded in death by his siblings and his parents.
Visitation will take place Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, from 5-7 p.m. at Daly-Leach Chapel. A Memorial Service will be held at Daly-Leach Chapel on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 at 11 a.m. Internment with full military honors will follow the service at Hamilton Riverview Cemetery.