Son, brother, uncle, friend, camper, traveller, free spirit, kind and gentle soul. Born Aug. 28, 1959, in Edmonton. Died Dec. 16, 2011, in Calgary by suicide, aged 52.
Gary Kushneryk enjoyed an idyllic childhood. Born and raised in Edmonton, he spent many blissful days at the family farm and on summer camping holidays with his parents Irene and George, younger brother Wayne and younger sisters Sue and Tammy. It was a simple, happy time that nurtured Gary’s love of the outdoors.
School days and Saturdays meant lunch at Baba and Cedo’s, his beloved grandparents, who lived around the corner. Gary, always an enthusiastic eater, loved the lunches of ham with homemade buns accompanied by games of cribbage, even though Baba often skunked him.
Gary was interested in a variety of academic subjects. He completed a BA in psychology at the University of Alberta, then studied French at Université Laval in Quebec City and the Université de Montréal.
After settling in Calgary, Gary seldom missed a chance to head to the mountains to camp, hike, ski or snowshoe. He studied accounting at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and held various hotel and accounting jobs. Still, although he was a diligent student, highly intelligent and easy to work with, Gary struggled to find a career path. Something was holding him back. But many increasingly difficult years were to pass before the cause was identified.
Gary adored travelling. Twice he and his friend Stephen did the classic trek around Europe in an old VW van. Gary relished his exposure to different languages, histories and cultures. He and Stephen also took two epic driving trips across Canada and several month-long summer camping trips through the jaw-droppingly beautiful desert and mountain scenery in the U.S. Southwest, California and Texas. Gary cherished every adventure, from wild desert storms and flash floods to stunning lightning storms and starry nights. During these trips, Gary showed his enormous capacity for unalloyed joy.
He also took great pleasure in being an uncle to his two nieces and three nephews, who loved him as deeply as he loved them. Gary was immensely proud of their many talents and accomplishments. They loved his sweet temper and quirky sense of humour, such as when he spoke to them in crazy accents that had them wondering where he came from.
In recent years, Gary discovered a love of photography, skillfully capturing special moments with his nieces and nephews, as well as at family gatherings such as Baba’s 100th birthday in 2010. He also took marvellous nature pictures, including ones of desert sunsets and a mother grizzly bear with her two cubs.
Sadly, Gary struggled for many years with bipolar disorder, enduring bouts of manic behaviour and depression, before he was finally diagnosed. Gary consulted with doctors and took various medications for his illness, but often became overwhelmed and deeply anxious. Despite these setbacks, by last year he appeared to be making substantial progress, at one point even saying that he felt normal again for the first time in years.
It therefore came as a devastating shock when Gary took his own life just before Christmas. The many relatives and friends who loved Gary so very much miss him tremendously.
Stephen Ditchburn is Gary’s close friend of 35 years.