Gary Garner witnessed a massive transformation of the news business and Bell County’s business community over the last half century. As retail advertising director for the Temple Daily Telegram, he was a walking encyclopedia of people, events and institutional memory.
Garner, 70, died Friday, just three months shy of his 50th work anniversary with the newspaper. His sudden death was a shock to his many friends. Arrangements are pending with Scanio-Harper Funeral Home in Temple.
Many friends and colleagues described his upbeat, positive energy that flowed wherever he went.
Don Cooper, the Telegram’s general manager, said Garner’s death will leave a large void in the community and at the paper.
“Gary was an institution at the Telegram and in Temple. He loved this newspaper. He dedicated most of his life to it,” Cooper said. “The newspaper is 112 years old. Gary was involved in nearly half of all the Telegram editions published in its history so far.”
Sue Mayborn, owner and publisher of the Telegram, said, “For 50 years, the name Gary Garner was synonymous with advertising at the Temple Daily Telegram.
“Gary greeted each day with energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to be helpful to his clients and to those who he worked with,” she said.
“A familiar phrase at the Telegram was ‘call Gary’ or ‘ask Gary.’ He wore a lot of hats over the years and had various titles. But he was the go-to person,” Mayborn said. “To say he will be missed is not adequate to express the feelings of all of us at the Telegram.”
Early in his career, Garner formed a close relationship with the Telegram’s advertising director and his mentor, Jack Weldon Jones (1932-1998), until Jones retired. Garner then succeeded him in the job.
“Jack adored Gary,” said Jones’ widow, Carol Jones Dempsey. “He was a wonderful person.”
A faithful, lifelong supporter of Temple High and the Wildcats, Garner was proud that he held season tickets for more than 50 years.
“Some of that sports mentality was evident in his work at the newspaper,” Cooper said. “He was good at setting goals and figuring out what it was going to take to reach them. He was a coach to the sales staff, someone who believed that rules were designed to be followed and should be applied to everyone fairly.”
Susan Craig agreed. She started working at the Telegram as a sales representative in 1976, when she was 24. She retired in 2014, but she returned to work part-time. At the time, Garner was the classified advertising manager; later, he was promoted to retail manager. He brought that same affability, boundless energy and business sense to every position he held.
“He knew everybody in town, and everybody liked him,” Craig said. “He was always telling us to keep trying, always working to get better, always pushing. He always encouraged you to improve in your job.”
Businessman and THS alumnus Jody Donaldson worked with Garner on the Wildcat Quarterback Club. “He was a big booster for the community,” Donaldson said. “He was always talking Temple football.”
A few hours before Garner’s death, Donaldson said he teased him about retiring from the Telegram. “He has set his retirement date three or four times, but he never set an actual, firm date.”
Craig added that recently Garner had been talking more openly about retirement.
Garner and his wife, the former Judy Ketterman, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last December. They are the parents of a son, Scott, and grandparents of two.