Gary D. Respers, a jovial McCormick & Co. career warehouse worker and an inveterate Orioles and Ravens fan, died Feb. 18 of complications of COVID-19 at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown. The Gwynn Oak resident was 69.
“I’ve known Gary for more than 25 years,” said Tom Lewis. “We worked together at McCormick, and a bunch of us became like family and we had fun. We worked, but we had lots of fun. He was a fun guy, but serious about life.”
Angie Ray and her husband, Tony, have lived next door to the Respers family for more than 20 years, settling there as newlyweds. “We were just not neighbors — we were family,” she said.
“If there is one word to describe Mr. Gary, it’s welcoming,” Ms. Ray said. “When you came into his atmosphere, he made you feel that way, too. He was definitely warm-spirited and always had a smile for you.”
Gary Delanore Respers, son of Ernest Respers and Evelyn Respers, was born in Baltimore and raised on Brighton Street in West Baltimore. Family members said that the “sense of community was so strong that the families would all get their children the same Christmas gifts each year, be it bikes or football uniforms.”
As a student at Northwestern High School, Mr. Respers excelled at lacrosse and football. After graduating from high school in 1969, he attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
When he was a junior in high school, he met through a mutual friend Patricia Williams, who was a freshman at UMBC He indulged in a little deception and failed to tell her that he was “only a high school junior,” said a daughter, Lisa Respers France of Atlanta, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who is now a senior writer for CNN.
The couple fell in love and married in 1971.
After working in construction and restaurants, Mr. Respers went to work in 1973 as a warehouseman for McCormick & Co., which was then located on Light Street in the Inner Harbor. He later worked in Hunt Valley after McCormick sold its downtown building to the Rouse Co. in 1989 and transferred its operations to Baltimore County.
Mr. Respers was a popular figure among his colleagues, who bestowed upon him the nickname “Storeroom Gary,” family members said.
“Gary was very friendly when the young kids came in. He guided them, and when they did something wrong, he didn’t scold them, but showed them how McCormick liked it to be done,” said Mr. Lewis, a Randallstown resident. “He was just an all-around nice guy who was always willing to help you out.”
“I know one time we were broken down on the side of the road and here comes Mr. Gary and his son to help us out,” Ms. Ray said. “The whole family is always there for you. If Miss Pat couldn’t do it, then she’d send Mr. Gary.”
Mr. Respers retired in 2011 but maintained connections with his work friends at McCormick.
“Five of us would go to breakfast and I’d pick up Gary. We went to different places but mostly to IHOP and Bob Evans,” Mr. Lewis said. “We’d sit there and talk and laugh and Gary has this big hearty laugh.”
Mr. Respers’ family was at the center of his life, and he took great pride in being family-oriented.
“They were a strong family unit and they poured that into me and my husband Tony,” Ms. Ray said. “Some people you meet in life leave an imprint, and they certainly left an imprint on the Ray family’s lives. In fact, they are my son’s godparents.”
Ms. Ray recalled backyard barbecues with Mr. and Mrs. Respers. “They’d always invite us over and included our extended family,” she said.
When Mr. Respers was younger, he indulged his passion for running, weightlifting and attending sporting events, and was an avid Orioles and Ravens fan. It became a family tradition every Christmas to have some Ravens gear or Orioles paraphernalia under the tree for one of their greatest fans.
In recent years, Mr. Respers suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was a dialysis patient.
“My mother was his caregiver for so many years, and we all worked hard to keep COVID out of the house. He had to have dialysis three times a week to live,” Ms. France said.
On Feb. 10, Mr. Respers was taken to the dialysis center, the last time his wife would see him alive.
At the center, he fainted when his blood pressure fell precipitously, and an ambulance took him to Northwest Hospital.
Two days later, Mr. Respers was diagnosed with COVID-19, and his wife several days later.
“I got a phone call on Sunday, Feb. 14, and they told me he was very fragile and it was going to be an uphill battle,” Ms. France recalled. “The phone rang on Feb. 18 and they told me he had passed at 11 a.m.”
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It fell to Ms. France to inform her mother that her husband had been lost to the pandemic.
Mrs. Respers is on the road to recovery and is only dealing with a lingering cough, her daughter said.
Ms. France said they are grateful for family and friends who have showered them with food cards, sympathy, support and love.
Plans for a gathering are incomplete because of the pandemic.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Respers is survived by two sons, Gary D. Respers Jr. of Gwyn Oak and Kyle Respers of Hampton, Virginia; another daughter, Danielle Respers of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and several cousins.