Gary died recently. It wasnít a surprise. He had been battling cancer for a few years now. Not a surprise but what a loss. He was one of the best child and youth care practitioners I have ever known. I suppose that I should tell you that he wasnít a child and youth care worker. He didnít identify himself that way nor did the people around him. He was a doctor, a psychiatrist. If you knew him you knew he didnít fit the mold of what most of us would see as psychiatrist, but he was one and proud of it. Indeed, he was internationally known in his field. Yet, as I said, he was one of the best child and youth care practitioners I have ever known.
I have been lucky to have over the years to have worked with some of the best people in our field and he was as good as any of them. He had a passion for working with young people. Along with this passion was the creative skill to be able to work with some of the toughest kids in the system. We worked in an adolescent sex offender program together. It was a tough population to work with at the best of times and a near impossible population to work with at the worst of times but regardless of what was going on Gary was always there for the young people in the program.
It was ability to stick with the kids that I first noticed about Gary. We worked with some good people working in that program. Grace the team leader was great, Jennifer the therapist was the same. The rest of us were very good at our jobs. Yet no matter how good we were, working with those young people wore us all down at times. All of us except Gary. He always seemed to look forward to coming to work in the program. He was a busy man but still always took the time to stop and talk to the kids. More importantly he always had the time to listen to them. He was incredibly inclusive with the young people. Maybe because he was gay he knew what it was like to be marginalized. His advocacy for the young people was a part of his core essence as a person.
He was a leader in his profession. He was the assistant director of a world renowned family therapy clinic. He was the director of a well known sexuality clinic. He traveled the world in his work and was a much sought after conference speaker and workshop presenter. He was well published. He was among the top of his profession in his areas of specialty. He was all of this, but I think his heart was most in the work with the kids in the program. At his memorial service his work in the program was emphasized. As I sat there listening to people praise him it struck me that the work that he had been most proud of in many ways was with these kids no one else wanted. He had a lot of success in his life but it was with these kids that he shone. They brought the best out in him.
So it is because of his qualities that I say he was one of the best child and youth care practitioners I have ever known. He had a passion for the work. He was creative and skilled. He always had time for the young people. He listened to them. He made sure that they were included when decisions were being made about them. He advocated for them. He had all of those characteristics that make one a good child and youth care practitioner.
I donít mean to glorify Gary here. He had his faults and was quite capable of driving the people around him crazy. He could be stubborn and opinionated. Yet at the end of the day he was a good man. That really is all that counts. So thanks Gary for all you have done for young people. Thanks for challenging me and for the support. Thanks Gary for all you taught me. I miss you.