Gary George Keith, 80, of Wallace left this earthly life for his eternal rest on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.
Gary or “Coach" as many of his family, former players and students knew him, was born in Everett, Washington on August 16, 1937. He was the son of the late LCDR Edward "Ted" Keith USN (ret), a veteran of WWII, and Marjorie Keith a life-long educator. He was also predeceased by his older brother Gene.
Gary proudly served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1962 serving tours in Vietnam and Korea.
After leaving the Army, he later (1964) met and married Elizabeth Anne Joyner of Norfolk VA, a recent divorcee with two sons, Al Keith (later adopted by Gary) and Ray Mattes. Soon after getting married, Gary and Elizabeth or “Nan” as she was affectionately called, left for California where Gary finished his Bachelor's degree at Cal State Hayward. They then moved back to Kittrell, NC in 1965 where Elizabeth gave birth to their daughter, Anne Moore Keith. Both Gary and Nan taught at Zeb Vance School in Kittrell with Gary coaching boy's basketball. In 1967 the family moved to Chapel Hill where Gary taught Science and Math, and coached basketball while Elizabeth finished her undergraduate degree at UNC Chapel Hill. After Nan graduated, they moved to Southern California. Gary and Nan continued teaching at various schools in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and “Coach” continued coaching basketball. In 1977 they moved to San Marcos, CA in San Diego County where Nan continued teaching vocal music and Gary continued coaching both boy's and girl's basketball, winning a regional championship in girl's basketball in 1982. In 1984 Gary and Nan, whose children were now all adults, took sabbaticals to teach for a year in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, and yes, Gary started a boy's basketball team on Saipan too! After Saipan, the two were selected to attend a teaching exchange to the UK for a year. After returning to the US, they taught for a few more years and retired from teaching in California in 1988. Seeing that most of their adult children were settling on the east coast, Gary and Nan moved back to NC. They taught in Onslow County and Yancey County before retiring from their teaching careers. Elizabeth died in 2001 after 36 years of marriage. After a few years Gary visited Vietnam where he met and married Tu Truong in 2003. The circumstances of their meeting are remarkable in that Gary, while touring Vietnam alone, happened upon a work party erecting a roof for a wedding when the roof collapsed and trapped several of the work party. Gary crawled up under the collapsed roof and lifted it enough to allow the workmen to escape. Among the work party was the bride groom! To demonstrate their gratitude for his help, the wedding party invited Gary to the wedding, whereupon he met his future bride, Tu Truong. Upon returning to the US, Gary and Tu established two nail salons in both Kenansville and Wallace NC. When a family friend of Tu's immigrated to the US from Vietnam, with her son, but without the son's father, Gary and Tu helped her to immigrate here,took her and her infant son into their home and adopted him; just another example of his remarkable compassion.
"Coach" Gary G. Keith is survived by his wife Tu Keith, sons Algernon Joyner Keith and Raymond John Mattes III; daughter Anne Moore Talovich; sister Laura Gail Liljestrand; brother Gill Keith; grandsons Raymond John Mattes IV and Ryan Lee Mattes; great granddaughter Risdon Mattes and great grandson Sanders Mattes and numerous extended family and friends who loved “Coach” dearly. “Coach” will be remembered as a conscientious teacher, skilled coach and mentor, and loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 6:00pm on Friday, April 6, 2018 at Quinn-McGowen Funeral Home Wallace Chapel with Father Rock officiating.
The family will receive friends from 5:00pm to 6:00pm, one hour prior to the service at the funeral home.
There will be a graveside service held 12:00 Noon on Friday, April 13, 2018 at Coastal Carolina Veteran's Cemetery, 110 Montford Point Road, Jacksonville, Onslow County, North Carolina, 28540.
In lieu of flowers the family request that memorial gifts be sent to Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, 3152 Little Road, Suite 146, Trinity, Florida 34655 or donate online at www.alzheimersresearchfoundation.com/make-a-donation.
You may share your memories and send condolences to the family by selecting our "Guestbook" above.
Quinn-McGowen Funeral Home and Cremation Service of Wallace, NC 910-285-4005
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To Tu, Al, Ray and Ann Moore and all your family I’m so sorry to hear that Gary has passed away. May he Rest In Peace. It is exactly thirty years ago this month that I met Gary and Elizabeth for the first time when they were on their teaching exchange in the UK. They worked in the town of Scunthorpe where I was also working in my first Parish on loan from Ireland. I was invited to dinner by a mutual friend because Gary and Elizabeth were planning a trip to Rome in May and our host knew I had been a student there. She wanted me to give Gary and Elizabeth some helpful hints. I did such a good job that they invited me to travel with them and act as their guide! I did and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Later that summer Gary and Elizabeth came to visit in Ireland and we had a ball. In January 1990 I went to study in Washington DC and of course this allowed me to visit Gary and Elizabeth in San Marcos. I have so many happy memories of those trips and indeed many others. Along the way I got to meet all of you. Gary and Elizabeth marked the twenty fifty anniversary of their marriage ion May 19 th 1991 by having a church wedding in San Marcos which I was privileged to preside at. I also remember with great pleasure a visit to Virginia Beach for a family gathering Many wonderful happy memories. Gary visited me in Ireland after Elizabeth (Nan) died. He was heartbroken. Shortly afterwards there was the fateful trip to Vietnam and the extraordinary meeting with Tu. I know that he found happiness again and Tu I’m sorry we have not met. Your neighbor Mary from Wallace told me all about her meeting with Gary at the nail bar and it was Mary who called me to let me know Gary had died. Hopefully some day I meet you all either side of the Atlantic. Life is good here and I’m a pastor at a church close to where I grew up. I realize you had Gary’s funeral service last Friday and that the burial is this Friday. I plan to celebrate Mass for Gary and Elizabeth this Friday morning so I will be thinking of you all. I’m so grateful for that meeting thirty years ago and the wonderful friendship that followed. Many blessings from Ireland. Love. Martin
Submitted by Fr. Martin Delaney on Apr 10 2018 11:59:59 AM
I was privileged to meet Gary Keith and his lovely wife Tu (Mary) years ago in Kenansville when they opened their nail salon there. It was while I worked at the paper - and I was mesmerized by Gary's life story. He was so fortunate to have known deep love for an amazing woman and her children, and then to have been blessed with one who held him close in her heart. His story is remarkable- and is one of resilience. Resilience in winning and in loss- in loving and grieving- in sickness and in health- in being greater than yourself and being a great gentle loving man. I will miss you, my friend.
Submitted by Marlane Carcopo on Apr 5 2018 03:51:29 PM
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