EHS Class of 1949
In 1949, Escanaba High School consisted of only three grades (10th through 12th), and Gary won eight of a possible nine letters in three sports (football, basketball, and track). He was exceedingly proud to grow up in Escanaba and play for the Escanaba Eskymos.
He could tell you what it was like to play six-man football at the Escanaba Junior High under Bill Pucklewartz. Or how the 1948 Escanaba Eskymo football team won every game – except one – and outscored its opponents 206 to 47 that year. Ironically, though, the most vivid memory and most talked about game was – not the wins – but the one loss … by one point … to the Menominee Maroons. Over fifty years later, his classmates (and Coach Ruwich) still talked about that game … “if only we had run a different play on that last drive.”
Even when he could no longer play, the love of sports continued to be an active part of Gary’s life … the Cubs, Tigers, Packers, and the University of Michigan Wolverines. A highlight for him was when he and his son Jeff traveled to Anaheim, CA, to attend both the Rose Bowl parade and the Rose Bowl game in 1998, when Michigan won the national title.
Since 2007, The Gary Abrahamson Trophy has been awarded each year at Escanaba High School to the senior boy and girl who earns the most athletic letters during their high school athletic career. In the case of a tie, the trophy is awarded to the person with the highest grade point average.
Although one of Gary’s early ambitions was to be a coach and history teacher, life circumstances led him to become a successful small business man instead. He and his wife Patt owned and operated multiple dry-cleaning stores in Michigan and Wisconsin (and was assisted by their daughter Vicki for many years). They also developed and owned Hawaiian Sun Fitness Center. Business was like a competitive game to Gary. He was good at it and enjoyed the challenge.
Gary and Patt also took care of their eldest son, Gary Jr., who – at the young age of 37 -- acquired a brain injury and required 24-hour care. In reflecting on his almost 25 years caring for an adult brain-injured son, Gary said that it was an event that affected him more deeply than anything else in his life. He said: “The grace of God gave me the strength to do my part … I became a better father and caregiver.”
Gary was a deeply spiritual man with a light-hearted, active sense of humor. He was a positive and upbeat person and wished good things for people and gave them encouragement. Gary was also proud of the fact that his paternal grandfather, James H. Elliott, and Thomas Edison were first cousins.
He was a true patriot and a history buff. Gary had his son take him to see where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River, the military academies (the Virginia Military Institute, West Point in NY state, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado) and many civil war sites, including Bull Run (first battle of the civil war), Gettysburg (where the war turned decisively in favor of the North), and Lexington, VA (of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fame).
Gary also knew a great deal about Escanaba history and people. For years, he loved helping his wife research and suggest topics for her weekly column in the Escanaba Daily Press.
In later years, Gary suffered from general heart failure but managed to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary and 80th birthday before passing away in April 2011. In the hospital, coming out of a drug-induced coma, the doctor asked him what month and year it was, and he responded: “You know doctor, I’ve been in the hospital so long that I’m not sure what the date is today, but can you tell me where the civil war ended?” The doctor didn’t respond right away, so Gary told him -- Appomattox, Virginia is where General Lee met General Grant to sign the surrender papers.
In a final trip Gary took to Florida with his son Jeff, both knew he was dying and so Jeff asked him: Dad, with all of your knowledge and life experience and days meditating on life in the early mornings (as he would often do), what words of wisdom about your life can we impart to those who come to pay your final respects. And he thought for a moment, and said: “I wish I would have been a better son, a better husband, and a better father.” He also imparted some words of wisdom to his daughter Vicki: “Always do what’s in your heart.”
Submitted by the Abrahamson family