One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to call clients to tell them a business associate had passed away.
Thursday, April 1, will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of our co-worker Gary Below, a longtime construction data reporter with The Daily Reporter. A few of us had worked with Gary for nearly 30 years.
I first met Mr. Below when our offices were on North 7th Street and West Wisconsin Avenue, now the site of Library Hill Apartments. I was first impressed with how he conducted business. As he trained me, I quickly learned that for Gary, it was always about accuracy and always putting the customer first.
He would spend a great deal of time talking to architects, contractors, developers and clients about the industry, and in a down-to-earth manner. One would think that he had owned his own construction business, as he somehow knew exactly how to approach each new challenge, and decipher exactly what our customers needed.
But, he was an “old school” news reporter with a hearty laugh and strong work ethnic. He could have retired, and probably should have retired years before he became ill. But, Gary was what you’d call a “people-person” who happened to love his work. That was evident after seeing a smile on his face after each phone conversation.
Most everything Gary did was self-learned. He was a pioneer in this industry — an industry that moved from archaic times to the modern world in a very short time.
He never greeted the computer age with open arms, but made sure he conquered each new challenge to assure his job was not compromised.
He never complained much either. We didn’t know he was truly ill until a few months before his passing.
He had a genuine dramatic nature. Once being a stage actor in his hometown of Oshkosh and then in Milwaukee, he carried that artistic flare in most everything he did.
It almost seemed as if the busy deadlines of a reporter fed into this creative tunnel of his. We could be completely swamped with work, and he still had time to laugh through it all, as if each new project he’d start was a new script.
He left behind a huge void in our existence here at The Daily Reporter. We do our best to promote his philosophies and remember him as a treasured co-worker and friend. He taught us a lot about living in the work world and about making a difference in our lives and the lives of others.
Gary Below was a class act.
Keith Barber is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1821.