Gary Michael Vaughn was born to Raymond Francis Vaughn and Jean Lavon Bennett on Dec. 10, 1946, in St. Louis, Missouri. He passed away in the early hours of August 11, 2020, in Santa Barbara after a long battle with cancer; his daughter Karen was at his side.
Gary was a “Boomer,” born into a working-class neighborhood in St. Louis, the youngest of three, spaced six years apart, making him most assuredly, Baby Gary.
Most fortunately for all the Vaughns, his parents had the wisdom and foresight to leave the grimy and crime-ridden big city behind and move to small-town Oklahoma while he was still an infant, affording him the benefit of growing up in the small-town environments of Chickasha and Norman, and later Odessa, out in West Texas.
Upon graduation from Odessa High school in 1965, Gary followed his older brother into the Army, where he served proudly in Vietnam in 1966 as a paratrooper with the famed 173rd Airborne Brigade, the Sky Soldiers, and with that unit participated in the largest American combat jump of that war.
Following his military service, Gary made Ventura his base of operations with coastal California becoming his permanent home until his death.
Possessed of a keen intellect, an observant eye and a never-ending curiosity about his world and fellow humans, Gary was a bit of a rambling man in the turbulent late 1960s, traveling all about this great country, usually riding his thumb from town to town and job to job.
On Oct. 5, 1974, Gary married Patricia Alexander, and with her had two children Christopher and Karen. He made his career with Southern California Gas, working his way up from field operations into management, retiring more than a decade ago.
In retirement, he found his true calling, that of nanny and chauffeur for his two thoroughly beloved granddaughters Kelsey and Claire Helton, or as their busy working mother referred to him, “My rock of reliability.”
When not thus occupied, Gary’s ever inquiring mind was engaged in reading the classics and occasional poetry, or in watchful observation of local wildlife of which he became quite knowledgeable.
Gary was predeceased by his parents, his sister Patricia Ray and her husband, W.J., and nephew Richard Ray.
He is survived by his former wife and mother of his children Patricia Alexander Vaughn of Santa Barbara; his children Karen Vaughn Helton of Santa Barbara and Chris Vaughn (Caroline) of Eugene, Oregon; his granddaughters Kelsey and Claire Helton of Santa Barbara, and Payton Means of Eugene, Oregon.
He is also survived by his longtime friend Rose Van Schaik; brother Russell Vaughn (Linda) of Hot Springs Village, Arizona; niece Cathy Jackson (Rex) of Bonham, Texas; as well as nephews Ronald Ray and Raymond Ray of the Dallas, Texas, area.
When I think of my brother from his rambling man days and remember him as the dashingly handsome best man at all my own wedding events back in 1967, that popular Glen Campbell tune of the time “Gentle on My Mind,” which was a favorite of his — epitomizing his then wandering ways — comes into my mind. The last stanza well sums up the sentiments of those of us blessed to have known him:
“Through cupped hands ’round a tin can
I pretend to hold you to my breast and find
That you’re wavin’ from the back roads by the rivers of my memories
Ever smilin’, ever gentle on my mind.”