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Colleagues

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    Dear Friends,

    I am sure that many kind words have already been spoken about our friend and colleague, Gary DeCramer. I would like to add a few because it might ease my own grief a bit, but also because Gary’s life should be a role model for all of us. Gary was a personal friend as well as a professional colleague. He was one of the most generous people I have ever known. His mid-career students will tell you that he cared as much about their individual lives as he did his own. Gary engaged in the political process and was elected to the Minnesota Senate. He loved to tell the story of running, losing, running again and winning the right to serve his constituency and to make a difference. I am not sure that most of us truly appreciate how much courage that takes. He served his country in the Agriculture Department and fought for a better life for farmers in the mid-west. We knew him as a loving father and husband to Estelle, and as a first-rate teacher. He never turned his back on politics, holding fundraisers at his home for DFL candidates. His annual native American drum sessions in the atrium showed another side of Gary. He was deeply interested in other cultures. He even took a sabbatical in Romania to explore life in Transylvania. Gary loved his family, his wife and daughters, and he loved life in general. There are few of us whose loss would have so much meaning for so many people. He was an inspiration and we should find a way to keep his spirit alive at the Humphrey School. Condolences to Estelle and the family, and to all of us who are feeling this loss.

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    Brian, you've eloquently captured how many of us feel. Thank you.

    Gary loved people, he was committed to public service and public affairs, he had studied to become a priest, and he also loved poetry. I found this poem, and, at least to me, captures some of Gary, particularly the last stanza, in which Whitman notes the "dear love of comrades" and the "well-married husband and wife, of children and parents." Gary's comrades will indeed find ways to keep his spirit alive.

    "The Base of all Metaphysics"

    And now gentlemen,
    A word I give to remain in your memories and minds,
    As base and finalè too for all metaphysics.

    (So to the students the old professor,
    At the close of his crowded course.)

    Having studied the new and antique, the Greek and Germanic
    systems,
    Kant having studied and stated, Fichte and Schelling and Hegel,
    Stated the lore of Plato, and Socrates greater than Plato,
    And greater than Socrates sought and stated, Christ divine
    having studied long,
    I see reminiscent to-day those Greek and Germanic systems,
    See the philosophies all, Christian churches and tenets see,
    Yet underneath Socrates clearly see, and underneath Christ the
    divine I see,
    The dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend
    to friend,
    Of the well-married husband and wife, of children and parents,
    Of city for city and land for land.


    From Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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    To The DeCramer Family: I do not think you know how much Gary was thought of, was loved by his colleagues and the students here at The Hump - as we fondly refer to this school. He was. He always will be. For me personally - he will always be a wonderful friend of mine. Drive by my home and you will see -- Hostas - of all kinds. Given to me, with love, from Gary over the years. He would bring in bags of them -- after he cleaned up his gardens - and I would lovingly carry those bags - heavy with damp dirt - on my bus ride home. Keep in mind it takes me two bus's to get home. But every step was filled with wonder and expectations. Gary's Hostas were going to a new home - and I was so happy. Dear Family, please know that some of those Hostas WILL follow me where ever I move to next. A promise.
    When my former supervisor and dear friend Bill Diaz died - it was Gary who encouraged me and guided me to start the ball rolling for a William Diaz Scholarship here at the Humphrey. When I got discouraged by all the legal stuff - he kept encouraging me more and more. That scholarship has not been implemented YET here at The Hump - but last Tuesday I made a promise to Gary that it will be accomplished before I retire. It is a promise I intend to keep.
    Those of you who knew Bill know that he had quite a sense of humor. Do you remember his joke about The Pearly Gates???? I know - without any doubt - that Bill was waiting by them 'pearly gates' for Gary - and they hugged and reminisced about The Hump for many an hour.
    God bless you Gary - and his family. I shall miss you. Until we meet again, adios.
    bls

  • Gary DeCramer was the first faculty member to invite me by email to join the Humphrey School. He detailed the strengths of our program and offered an opportunity to visit the legislature. He was such a kind colleague and I will always remember his encouragement and smile.

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    Very sad news. I enjoyed working with Gary on the curriculum committee a couple of years ago. Wish I had gotten to know him better.

    Sarah Berke

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    Dean Schwartz-
    I join you in your sadness over Gary’s death. I had the honor of serving on the DARTS Board of Directors with Gary for six years. Gary provided tremendous leadership and was a role model. He left the Board due to his illness and his absence has left a void. Thank you for sharing this sad news and for paying tribute to him. He certainly loved his work at the Humphrey School.

    Sincerely,
    Aida Schaefer

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    Thank you so much for sharing the news of Gary’s passing and for allowing us to join in the remembrance via the internet. Gary was an extremely important person to me as he and I grew up only one town and a few years apart  …his sister worked with my dad for nearly 20 years! Gary shaped my years at the Humphrey and was my capstone advisor. Beyond that, we continued to connect on a regular basis over a commitment to the strength of our community, the Humphrey and the joy that lies in stories. I will never forget the huge hug and smile he always had ready…especially as we met on Friday for the Humphrey planning work on diversity.

    Gary mentored and encouraged me, as he did for so many…I know you and he also had a special bond and I want you to know that my thoughts are with you and the Humphrey School, as well as his family today.

    He and I shared a passion for leadership, small towns and human connectedness. I truly appreciate your allowing us to be connected as a community as we celebrate his life and mourn the loss.

    Warm regards,
    Anita Patel
    Vice President
    Racial Justice & Public Policy
    YWCA of Minneapolis

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    Pat and I appreciate all the wonderful comments about our brother, Gary. Our family will miss him greatly. Thank you Anita, he so valued his friendship with you and your family.
    Pat Lenz and Sherry Anderson

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    Dear the DeCramers family:
    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Gary has been such an inspiration to the Humphrey School Community in many ways. I enjoyed every bits of my interactions with Gary and learned a lot from him. I continue to work hard to make sure that his legacy lives on at the Humphrey School Community and beyond, so that our state, country and the world will be filled with great leaders and citizens.

    My prayer is with you.

    Deepest sympathy,

    Kiyoshi Nakasaka
    A member of the Advisory Council member
    at the Humphrey School, Washington DC


  • I am privileged to have been a friend and colleague of Gary. We have met for many years for breakfast at the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul. He supported the Center for Transportation Studies as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and worked within CTS for a short time, his presence bringing important values to our young organization. I closely followed his appointment to a position in federal government and now am experiencing that unique role myself, in part a result of his encouragement. But my memories of him as a transportation and public service colleague are overwhelmed by my memories of our friendship. At those breakfasts, we shared the changes in our careers, the news of our families, our pride in our daughters, our love of literature, and an intense interest in politics and the future of our state and nation. I am glad we were able to meet when I was in Minnesota this winter, where I heard about his and Estelle's recoveries from health scares, about Katie's college success and Louise's college plans, about the current challenges in Minnesota politics, and about his views on the Presidential election. I will deeply miss those times together. Our breakfasts have ended much too soon.

    Bob Johns

  • Gary leaves an amazing legacy of caring, compassion, passion, conviction and action. I join many in mourning his loss. Jim Lewis

  • Gary was a wonderful mentor to me. I will always remember his calming influence and wise counsel. Gary's selfless dedication to public service taught his students and me how to make strides toward a better local community and beyond. I miss Gary dearly.
    Kaye Husbands Fealing

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    Tom Vellenga here. I'm no longer at the HHH School, but I'm a former colleague and enduring friend of Gary. I'm writing on behalf of my wife, Julie Schmid, as well. We've been good friends with Gary since 1998, when he helped me in my job search upon my return to Minnesota. We had never met, but he spent a generous hour helping me create a network in that meeting. Mom had told me that Gary was a sweetheart, and how right she was. That was the first instance of his extraordinary kindness to my family.

    Later, he was a one-man welcoming committee when I joined the Humphrey community, and we became good friends as colleagues. It was Gary who persuaded us to explore his unitarian-universalist community -- Unity Church-Unitarian -- which we later joined. Gary has been a leading pillar of that strong community. It was Gary who talked me into mentoring a high school freshman, following his own joy at having done so. It was Gary who sat with me and reviewed extensively the notes and history of his attempt to create a progressive group in order to help those of us who later founded our own: truly the shoulders upon which we stepped to clamber up that ladder of progress. We talked and worked and taught together at the Humphrey, at Unity, and at social gatherings, and I never got enough of Gary DeCramer. I never tired of his tremendous tales of days among his American Indian friends in Oklahoma, where they honored him as a peer.

    As a good friend and colleague, he offered compliments easily along with constructive critiques. His praise was authentic, strong, and bracing: one felt as though he meant it, which is to say that his encouragement stuck. I pasted one of his memorable lines on my office wall early in the vulnerable days of our new group's founding.

    Julie and I have marveled at his exemplary family life as well. He seems to our eyes to have been a model dad to remarkable Louise and Katie and husband to Estelle. We witnessed their easy warmth and comfort together again and again; they are an inspiration in this regard as in so many others.

    When we began to work together, in 2002, I remember thinking one day, "This is the sweetest man I've ever met." Year after year, time after time, Gary proved this sentiment true. Honestly: He's the sweetest man I ever met. Gary's example of humility, generosity, decency, and kindness to others in his daily life is unparalleled. He took the high road, which was not always the shortest or fastest or easiest road It required a discipline of character rare among us. Julie and I mourn his passing, and we celebrate his remarkable life. To his family, I would say this: Gary's community of friends is your community of friends. You are in our hearts, and we look forward to lending you a hand as Gary did for us.

    With abiding love for Gary, Estelle, Katie and Louise,

    Tom Vellenga with Julie Schmid



Gary DeCramer, a senior lecturer and director of the mid-career Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program, died suddenly on March 7, 2012, while on a trip to Morris, Minnesota. He was 67.


DeCramer joined the Humphrey School in 1992. Before leading the MPA program and teaching courses on leadership, DeCramer served as a state senator representing the southwestern region of Minnesota, as state director of USDA Rural Development, principal planning analyst for Hennepin County's Office of Planning and Development, senior fellow in the Humphrey School's State and Local Policy Program and the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies, and interim president of Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

We welcome all to leave memories or condolences in the respective category, as we all mourn this tremendous loss.

Please e-mail hhhevent@umn.edu with any questions.



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