Gary Lynn Baldwin was the first of four children, born at 2:17 a.m. on 5/11/1940 to Charles Chester Baldwin and Emma Beatrice Monks at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Gary was a good baby and walked by 9 1/2 months, according to the baby book kept by his mother. We dont know much about what happened in his early years but we know that three siblings (Ella Charlene, James Lester and Charles Ernest) followed fairly quickly on three separate tours to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
The Baldwins settled in Southern California, where Master Sergeant Baldwin taught ROTC at Long Beach High School. Gary enjoyed fishing and boating with the family, particularly his father. The kids spent the summers playing and roaming around the neighborhood and going to the beaches, lakes, parks and long trips to Texas to see grandparents Fred and Ida Baldwin. His dad retired from the service after twenty years and the family moved to Vancouver, Washington when Gary was 13.
Gary always made friends easily, and he quickly hooked up with local kids in the neighborhood. He soon started to smoke cigarettes, among other things. With both parents working the kids were free to roam after school and in the summer.
Charles Chester Baldwin, his father, died suddenly on December 10, 1952, at age 42, an event that shook everyone, especially Gary. He idolized his dad. Emma, always a classic beauty, finding herself with a mortgage, four kids, no insurance payments and no benefit payments, soon began to date David Murray, a handsome fireman from Astoria, Oregon. They married 9 months after Charlies death and the family moved to Astoria. Gary was again uprooted as a teenager and did not take to his new step dad, as you can imagine.
He started school at Lewis and Clark Grade School in the 8th grade. According to his youngest brother, Charlie, he got into the Army National Guard and when other boys were wearing their Boy Scout uniforms to grade school, Gary was wearing his Army uniform. He started High School, and found it a struggle both academically and socially, and by age 15 became a member of the National Guard and left home, moving to Rogue River, Oregon, to live with Gladys and Steve, his step aunt and uncle. From there he was able to join the Army and at about age 17 started his Army career. He was hard to keep track of after that, but he would occasionally show up unexpectedly while on leave. In 1959 he met and Married Connie Bruner in Kentucky while at Ft. Knox. Together they had three children: Betty Jo, Charles and Tony. Connie and Gary lived together for ten years and eventually divorced in about 1972. During their marriage Gary states that he had two tours in Viet Nam as a Green Beret where he sustained several wounds.
After Viet Nam and his divorce, Gary came back to Astoria where he fished and did odd jobs and eventually remarried to Judy Brandon in the mid 70s. They remained married for about 15 years, living in Kodiak, Alaska, and Astoria while Gary fished, hunted and worked as a lineman. His Viet Nam and early life experiences began to take their toll and Gary became increasingly disabled. He settled in Ocean Park, Washington, for about ten years, where he struggled to make it on small pension benefits, and after the untimely death of his son, Chuck, Gary moved to La Pine, Oregon, a climate more suited to his health.
Because of issues with his wounds, agent orange, a spider bite, and post-traumatic stress syndrome, Gary was eventually given full disability from the Veterans Administration and was able to live a quiet retirement in La Pine where he found a community of friends and veterans that shared his interests. He met his current wife Tonjia in about 2007 and they were married in Hawaii in 2010, a union encouraged by the emergence of his new found daughter, Wanda Ahonui who is an acupuncturist on Kauai.
Garys health began to fail severely in 2011, and he became moderately infirmed. Before his untimely death from a burn injury, Gary still enjoyed fishing and visiting with friends and family whenever he could. He was always a man of mystery and rebellion to the family. He partied hard and chain-smoked but always had a smile and a chuckle. He will be missed by us all.
He was grieved particularly hard by his brothers and their wives James (Lucy) and Charles (Carol), his many nieces and nephews, his children Betty Jo, Tony, Chuck (deceased), Wanda and Jeff; grandchildren Ronnie, Candice, and Tabatha; great-grandchildren Austin and Makenna and his good friend Bruce Van Dyke and wife Tonjia.
God rest his soul. Gary will be interred at Willamette National Cemetery with his father.