Gary R. Knoeppel passed away New Years Day, 2013 in Aptos, California after a brief hospitalization at Stanford University Medical Center. He was with his family when cancer took him after many years of Gary confronting this disease.
Those who knew of his fortitude called him a warrior.
Gary was born to Ann (Uchytil) and Ross M. Knoeppel in Paso Robles on November 8, 1942. Gary was 11 years old when his father died in an industrial accident. After graduating from Paso Robles High School he joined the U.S. Navy with the “encouragement” of the local police department who knew him well.
Upon returning to his hometown after military duty, Gary briefly worked for PG&E before enrolling at Cuesta Community College then on to UCLA to earn his college degree in automotive technology. He obtained a vocational teaching credential which allowed him to help establish and teach auto shop at Templeton High School. His dedication to teaching was obvious when he started the first girls auto shop class in the county. He would open the auto shop on Saturdays to allow all students to work on their personal car projects. During this time he also coached the JV football team and won a league championship of which he was very proud.
After several years of teaching, Gary decided to pursue his other passion, home construction. He worked with two friends building homes in Sacramento and Lake Tahoe before returning to Paso Robles. This return was hastened by his recent introduction by mutual friends to his future wife, Joan. They eventually eloped to Lake Tahoe on March 3, 1986.
Gary obtained his California Building Contractors license and began building custom homes in northern San Luis Obispo county. While building homes for clients Gary also built he and Joan's first home together in Paso Robles and then in Creston.
Although diagnosed a few years after being married with a pre-cancerous blood disorder Gary did not let it dictate his life. He was determined to keep it and future malignancies on the run with healthy eating, exercise and a mindset that at times even baffled his doctors.
In 2003 Gary retired to Rogue River, Oregon where he turned a ramshackle cabin into a lovely and comfortable home on 23 acres fronting a creek in the forest. At the same time he finished his 14 year street rod project. He and Joan began showing, cruising and enjoying their 1946 Ford pick-up. He received numerous awards and show trophies which he humbly accepted.
Gary stayed active all his 70 years including riding dirt bikes, water and snow skiing, surfing off Pismo Beach and “amateur” car racing. With age came wisdom and upon his move to Oregon he enjoyed fishing, camping and exploring his new home state. This included trips over to Plush in the eastern Oregon desert with his childhood buddy and fellow Oregonian, Don Barss.
Gary never grew tired of finding new projects on which to work.
Gary is survived by his wife Joan, her twin sister Teresa Driscoll and her husband Bill Lev (a fellow Bohemian). Also his dear Aunt Mary (Uchytil) Vestnys and her husband Gordon, who were more like older siblings, nephew Todd Knoeppel, nieces Kristen Knoeppel Minguh and Krissy Knoeppel Isaacs and sister-in-law Sharon Knoeppel along with numerous cousins and close friends near and far.
He was pre-deceased by his parents, and also by his bother Ross M. Knoeppel, who succumbed to this cruel disease in 1999.
A lifelong animal lover, Gary leaves his beloved Aussie/Border collie, Cheyenne, who quietly lay with him as his spirit left this world.
As saddened as we are to lose such a truly wonderful man, please join with us and help celebrate his life. Services will be held Wednesday Jan 9, 2013, at 11:00 am in the chapel at Keuhl-Nicolay, 1703 Spring St. Paso Robles. Burial to follow at Paso Robles District Cemetery.
Friends are invited to join the family after the services at the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum, 2010 Riverside Ave.
Donations preferred to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society www.lls.org, American Bladder Cancer Society www.bladdercancersupport.org; Hospice of Santa Cruz County www.hospicesantacruz.org; Caring Bridge, Making each health journey easier, www.caringbridge.org.
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