By John Pierce
“Before we had Google, we had granddad,” Catherine Eubanks-Carter said she once told her son.
Speaking at a memorial service for her father, Gary F. Eubanks, yesterday at First Baptist Church of Marietta, Ga., Catherine described him as “an independent thinker” who “knew a little something about everything” and was “not only knowledgeable, but wise.”
Gary was a successful attorney and businessman who put family above personal ambition, she said. He was always at the dinner table and whatever activities involved his family.
Gary’s death on Aug. 27, at the young age of 68, followed a 17-month struggle with brain cancer. He and his loving and caring wife, Virginia, were remarkably faithful and hopeful through this painful journey.
Their son, James, assumed fuller leadership of the family property management business a bit sooner due to his father’s illness. However, the transition was already in process and, like everything Gary did, was well planned and executed.
James said the best of many lessons he learned from his father came last summer when Gary faced his illness with courage.
“I learned the depth of his faith,” said James, “…and found such an inspirational figure in my father.”
Jim Fleming, a longtime friend and retired president of Kennesaw State University Foundation, spoke of Gary’s personal integrity and respect throughout the community. Whether in Rotary Club, business circles or any other sector, Gary was held in high regard, he said.
My own reflections honoring Gary’s memory focused on his effectiveness as an exemplary Christian lay leader.
Many times, when Gary was chairman of the Baptists Today Board of Directors, I would request his wise counsel. He always made time and would introduce me to the latest good food on or near the Marietta Square.
A quiet and unassuming person, he listened while I did most of the talking about a challenging situation or an emerging opportunity. Then he would always ask: “What do you want from me?”
Usually, it was his wisdom and support — and the assurance that I was not headed in the wrong direction or even reaching the right decision alone. He was helpful in practical and philosophical ways.
Our friendship grew with each visit, and many times I drove away from Marietta with a much lighter load because of my time with Gary.
During more recent visits, words didn’t come easily for Gary. But he wanted me to share about what was happening in our publishing ministry — although he had greater personal concerns. His quiet assurance always showed through.
Gary, as did his family, faced this challenging journey with such strength and grace. He never complained about unfairness, but only said of his illness: “It is what it is.”
I reminded those gathered yesterday that the illness that took him too soon, however, “is not all that is.” The compassion, trust, deeper relationships and stronger faith forged over the last year and a half stand as lasting testimonies and sources of hope for the days ahead.
Pastor Bill Ross, my seminary classmate, assured us that the separation we feel from Gary is real and worthy of our grief. However, the promise of God is that: Nothing at all — not even death — can ever separate us from God’s love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done. (Romans 8:38-39)
Prayers continue for Virginia, Catherine, James and the many family and friends who experience that separation — yet celebrate the good life of Gary Franklin Eubanks, a child of God and faithful servant.
(Here is a link to the obituary.)