In Memoriam: Gary Lester, a Hyattsville original

Gary Lester was devoted to the members of his family.

Gary Lee Lester died on July 20 at the age of 60. He is survived by his wife, Linda Lester; his sons, Peter, Stephen and Matthew; his grandchildren, Matthew, Jacob, Joshua, Benjamin, Delyla, Kolt, Jersey and Drew; and his sister, Elfie Winstead. Gary Lester is predeceased by his parents, Earl and Ruth Lester.Gary Lee Lester died on July 20 at the age of 60. He is survived by his wife, Linda Lester; his sons, Peter, Stephen and Matthew; his grandchildren, Matthew, Jacob, Joshua, Benjamin, Delyla, Kolt, Jersey and Drew; and his sister, Elfie Winstead. Gary Lester is predeceased by his parents, Earl and Ruth Lester.

The following was adapted from a eulogy for Gary delivered by Fred Fleisher:

By FRED FLEISHER — Who was Gary L. Lester? He was many things to many people: a brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, coworker, teacher, mentor, bass player, writer and friend, but to us, he was our family. Gary came to work at our store, Fleisher’s of Maryland, in the mid ‘80s as our new service manager.

We had so much in common, from liking the same bands, authors and movies, and don’t even get me started on our discussions about “Star Trek” or Monty Python. I still laugh when I think about how Gary said he was going to teach his grandson to say “Nih” from “The Holy Grail.”
Gary received his graduate degree in gemology and started his own business as an independent appraiser in 1988, but before he did, he took me aside and told me, “It’s not like I am going away; you’ll still see me every week when I come to do appraisals.” It wasn’t the same, but at least I got to see him every week.

By 2005, nearly all the old staff decided it was time to retire, so I was left with just a few people to run the store. Luckily for me, it was suggested that I ask Luis Pena, the former manager of the Game Stop next door, if he wanted to work at the store. So here we were: Luis, who had great management skills in retail but had never worked with jewelry or watches, me and some young girls who were new to the store and to both of us. Gary stepped right up and with his style of making people feel more comfortable, and forged a friendship with Luis that would last for 13 years.

Our bond strengthened in 2012, when Gary found out that we were closing the store after over 60 years in business. The company rep who was helping us run the sale saw how well Gary got along with both me and Luis. He told us that we should try and do a reboot in a better location. With what each of us could bring to the table, he was sure that we could be successful. Gary was on board from the start, and so we all became partners in the new venture. By being out at other stores, Gary could not only see what was working and not working for others, but was able to secure fixtures for us from stores that were closing and find unique merchandise at the venues he spoke at. He introduced us to one of the major trade shows, and was always giving us ideas for things to try.

The final bit of glue between us came last year, when he needed somewhere to stay, and Luis and I opened our door to him. Having him at our house for his last nine months was amazing — kind of like Delta House, but without all the parties and kegs. The guy was an amazing cook, and fun to cook for. It was the final piece to the puzzle: we were a family — granted a dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless.

We saw how much he meant to people, always going off to help others and staying active. Be it playing in the church band, or staying out till all hours helping his students with their projects, if you needed him, he was there. We saw him become a published writer, a podcaster, a mentor for gemological students, and a highly respected member of the Gemological Association, who lectured at their events all over the country.   He was one of a kind, and once you met him, you never forgot him. I would like to leave you with a recent example of how he touched someone’s life: We had a customer come in soon after Gary’s passing; having been given his email address, she had contacted him when she saw the store was unexpectedly closed one day. Why would she do this? It seems that Gary appraised her ring for her several months ago. When she told him she wanted to sell it, Gary told her that it would take a unique individual to want such a ring, but if she had time, he would shop it around for her. They kept in touch via email as he tried to find a buyer, and this meant the world to her. He was paid to appraise her ring, and she was amazed how this man would do his best to find a buyer for her on his own time. Luis and I spent over an hour and a half with her and her fiancé, talking about how great a guy Gary was. There are not many people on this Earth who would go as far as he would to help someone out, and get them the most return for what they had, without expecting anything in return.

Gary was an example of how to live and what to aspire to be. Every life he touched was better for the experience they had with him. I loved this man, and my heart goes out to his family and all whose lives he touched, because if you ever had the opportunity to meet him, your life was better for it.
I guess it is time, Mr. Scott: one to beam up ….

Fred G. Fleisher is a partner with Fleisher’s of Maryland.

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