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Gary Innis Weaver

Gary Innis Weaver, age 76 of Knox, PA, peacefully passed away on February 8, 2024, at UPMC Northwest. Gary aka, GIW, Pistol Packer, GI, Big Guy, and GarBear. You never saw Gary without camo on.

He was born on January 22, 1948, to Wilford “Wick” Weaver and Dorothy Amanda (Ginnery) Weaver. Gary was the fourth of their six …SIX! sons.

Almost 53 years ago, Gary married Catherine “Cathy” Sawatsky on May 14, 1971. Gary and Cathy raised two daughters, Amanda Catherine O’Neil and Kimberly Rose Weaver on a farm near Ninevah, complete with a fishing pond, shooting range, huge garden, and endless outdoor adventures.

After graduating from Keystone High School in 1967, he operated heavy equipment in the construction of Interstate 80. Gary then enlisted in the U.S. Army, first serving as a Military Police officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia, Fort Sam, Texas, and then in Germany. Gary held the “Expert Class” in marksmanship with several weapons including M1911 Handgun, M14 Rifle, M16 Rifle, M60 Machine Gun, and M79 Grenade Launcher. Gary then volunteered to go to Vietnam. During his tour in Vietnam, he was a Door Gunner on a Chinook helicopter dropping supplies to the front lines and extracting wounded soldiers. While on a mission, their Chinook helicopter was shot down and crashed. Gary was instrumental in conducting a safe evacuation and ensured the survival of his 11 fellow soldiers and pilots. For his heroic actions, Gary received an Air Medal with a “V” Device for Valor and Heroism.  He received an Honorable Discharge in 1970.  In 2021, in front of a crowd of 500+ at the Clarion County Sportsmen for Youth annual banquet, Gary was in for a big surprise.  Marv Miller, another local Vietnam veteran whom Gary helped rescue in yet another Vietnam incident, told his story of the rescue. Marv proceeded to honor Gary with a plaque of appreciation. Gary then said a few humble words: “I wasn’t the pilot, and I remember that day”.

Gary ALWAYS proudly displayed an American flag at his home and made certain that there was an American flag hanging at all events he participated in coordinating. He was the true definition of an American Patriot and he took the title of veteran very seriously as it was one of the hardest-earned titles of his life.

For many years, Gary played modified pitch softball on the Foodland, Ashland, and Pizza Shop teams. This talented, fun group of men won many local tournaments, a state championship, and a national championship over the years. These men formed a strong following and the wives, children, and friends traveled to many tournaments, near and far to enjoy the show. Gary loved being responsible for the resounding boom of his homemade cannon that he would shoot at every Keystone home football game. The whole town, without a doubt, knew when the boys scored! If Gary wasn’t able to be there, Gary’s crew of friends stepped in and made sure the team was supported with the big booms. To quote a friend’s tribute “Gary was one of the sweetest people you would ever meet. Like a Tootsie Pop, you had to first breakthrough that hard outer shell to get to the sweet goodness.”  He adored little kids and they adored him! He could always be seen holding any baby within his vicinity. A friend’s four-year-old was asked who he wanted invited to his birthday party, and he said Gary Weaver! For years he loved hosting Easter egg coloring at his house or the hunting camp for a plethora of kids, big and small. He loved being in the woods on 4-wheeler rides, shooting guns, you name it, he was up for a good time. He was an avid hunter, which included many trips out west. Gary took the time to mentor many youths in the sport of shooting, hunting, and fishing. Gary would plant a garden every year which was a sight to behold. He would pick boxes and boxes full of produce and share his bumper crop with anybody who wanted some and sometimes even if you didn’t. Throughout his years of hard work, Gary had many harrowing close calls with life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Everybody would joke that he had a couple dozen lives. After each one, he just couldn’t wait to get better and get right back to work.

Gary was a jack of many trades. After Gary returned from Vietnam, he worked at Joy Manufacturing for 20 years. During this time, Gary began his own business, Weaver Tree Trimming and Removal, and thus began the era of the countless Camo trucks, trailers, four-wheelers, and hearses! He also worked at KB Pizza and Kahle’s Kitchens and retired in 2010 from the Fiberboard Plant in Shippenville, PA. Gary was a skilled tree cutter and did endless jobs in the tri-county area. Over the years several dozen young people and adults joined his crew cutting trees, hauling brush, and splitting firewood, or anything else he tossed their way. He took his work responsibilities to the next level and there was zero room for mediocrity. These values were taught to his crew. Gary truly was a teacher and loved being a mentor. When you worked for Gary Weaver, you not only learned how to work hard, you learned invaluable life lessons. Gary was known for his uncanny ability to tell a literal endless supply of jokes, on any and every topic imaginable. More than once a young worker would think it was a good idea to repeat a joke at the dinner table that Gary had told the crew that day. Sometimes much to the shock of the young man’s mother! Gary took great pride in a job well done and didn’t accept anything less from his employees. They all will tell you how grateful they are for Gary’s part in being so instrumental in instilling in them their work ethic and other great attributes. Anyone who ever worked for Gary would tell you how hard it was, but that it was also equally as rewarding, and you never were thirsty or hungry because Gary supplied them with all they could eat or drink. For years, in Gary’s spare time, he mowed and prepped the Little League ballfields in Knox with great care and mowed and cleaned up the shooting range for the Clarion County Rod and Gun Club.

Gary has spent countless hours helping to make the Clarion County Youth Field Days what it is today. Gary’s crew would spend days mowing and cleaning up for the annual event to ensure the place was perfect from one end to the other. Just ask some of his old crews! He was an active member of many boards including Clarion County Sportsmen for Youth, Clarion County Rod and Gun Club, Knox American Legion Post 720, and the VFW-Spec. Ross A. McGinnis Post 2145 in Clarion. He also was on the Knox Horsethief Committee for many years. He was a member of the Ashland Hunting Club, Heartbreak Hotel Hunting Club, and the Fryburg Sportsmen’s Club.

To carry on Gary’s stories, laughter and legacy are his daughter Amanda and her husband Jim “Gumby” O’Neil of Cranberry and three grandsons, Colt and his wife Taylor O’Neil of Grove City, Cooper O’Neil and Gage O’Neil both of Cranberry. Gary was a very proud Grampy! He is also survived by two brothers, who are as funny as Gary was, and their wives, Denny and Vickie Weaver of Knox and David and Deb Weaver of Kossuth. Numerous nieces and nephews, great, great-great, and so on. This tribute would be another three pages to be able to list them all. Gary was also blessed to have several surrogate sons and daughters and the list is plentiful. Johnny Brothers of Tennessee and Mindy Gatesman of Emlenton were especially special to his heart. The littles running around the house while Cathy provided childcare over the years made his day when he would get home from work. Megan “Fred”, Samantha “Sam”, Jami “Beaner”, Mariah “Murray”, Logan and Bryce, and a special angel, Whitney, to name a few. Gary and Cathy were also foster parents over the years, which included a special foster son, Tyler.

Gary looked up to his three older brothers, Ron, Dean, and Arnie, and each one helped shape the man Gary was. They preceded him in death.

When the brothers were together, the endless reminiscing of adventures, shenanigans, and the “I can’t believe we lived through that,” abounded for all to hear. It didn’t matter if you heard the story once or 50 times, you still waited for the punch line!

Gary was a true friend and was beyond blessed with a huge amount of close friends and hunting buddies near and far. He could be counted on to do what was needed in any situation, no matter how impossible the task would seem to some. You could be absolutely certain that while he was doing these tasks they would be filled with jokes, anecdotes, and stories. His need to help others was never driven by the need for recognition of his efforts.    

In regular GI fashion of things getting done his way, he has chosen to make his exit of his life here on earth, just as he preferred, quietly and without fanfare. Following his wishes, the family will not be holding a visitation or service.

However, his family would absolutely LOVE to hear any stories or memories that anyone would like to share with them. Please mail them to Amanda O’Neil ,at 338 Route 322, Cranberry, PA 16319, or deliver them to O’Neil Service.

A GIW-style celebration of life get-together will be held when the weather is warmer and we can gather and tell some jokes, and stories, and maybe have a round or two fired off, sound the cannon and the dress code will be… you guessed it… Camo!

Gary humbly requested that if anyone would like to make a donation in his memory, make it about the kids and support the continued mentoring of the great outdoors for our Clarion County youth. Donations can be sent to the Clarion County Sportsmen for Youth at CCSFY, PO Box 953, Knox, PA 16232

Hey! Have you heard the one about……….

To view and share photos or leave an online condolence please visit our website at www.mcentire-weaverfuneralhome.com.

 

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