In Memoriam: Gary Aston 1934—2013
Gary Aston, who served as Local 6185’s secretary-treasurer for ten years, passed away on February 5, 2013. Services for Gary were held on February 15, followed by an afternoon long reception. Both events were well-attended and both reflected Gary’s character as a man who enjoyed life and had a genuine desire to help other people in whatever way he could. I think he would have been pleased.
When Gary first began working with the Part-Time Faculty Association in 2003, we were going through some difficult times. At one point I expressed my feeling of discouragement. Gary lifted my spirits by saying, “You have a long ways to go yet. You are going to remember this time in your life and the good work you’re doing for many years to come.” This simple bit of wisdom has always stayed with me, and helped me through other challenging moments.
Near the end Gary was struggling with his health, and was having more and more difficulty in getting from one place to another. I frequently helped him as best I could. A proud man, I knew he was not happy in needing to be assisted this way, but he always thanked me over and over. On the last day I saw him, January 31, we had been in bargaining all morning and then gone out to lunch. He was having serious problems breathing and each step was hard for him. He very badly wanted to go to our office and continue his work there that day, but as we got outside he realized he wasn’t up to it, and called his wife Theresa to come and take him home. While we waited he thanked me once more for helping him. I said, “Gary, if the situation were reversed, and I needed help, I know you would help me.” Sometimes you just know that about someone, and I knew that about Gary.
Gary was devoted to his work with our Association and our union. Besides taking on the often challenging job of being our secretary-treasurer, he also served on the bargaining team. Together we underwent the frequently stressful task of negotiating with the community college district. Each year we improved our contract until it is now one of the best of its kind in the state and perhaps even the nation. Gary could be justly proud of the role he played in that.
Gary will be sorely missed. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind, good hearted and good humored man who touched the lives of many.
Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA