Robert Frederick Gay, 77, of Blythewood, South Carolina, passed away November 14, 2023.
Born in Morris, Minnesota, Bob grew up in a small prairie town, riding his bicycle all over, playing with his dog, and climbing over huge barn lofts with his friends. He was well loved by his parents—Clayton, a judge in town who taught Bob about a life of service, a deep love of dogs, and an ardent dedication to community development—especially at the University of Minnesota, Morris; by his mother, Eleanor, who developed Bob’s love of classical music and joy in concert-going, and engendered a love of family; and his brother, Jim, whom he always looked up to and was sure had hung the moon.
Bob attended the University of Minnesota, Morris, studying music, psychology, and drama. After college, he taught music in the local school system, until volunteering to serve his country in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Upon returning from this service he studied law at the University of Minnesota.
Bob loved practicing law—from Minnesota to South Carolina, in private practice, corporate law, and ultimately in the federal system, primarily with Fort Jackson, where he served until retirement. He also enjoyed being a part of the US Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. During his service, Bob earned many awards—standouts include the Army Commendation Service Medal and a Bronze Star.
Alongside his professional work, Bob loved music. He sang, taught, played, and conducted music, and was involved in different organizations and groups, from Minnesota to Vietnam to South Carolina—as a part of church choirs, community and legion bands, army bands and groups, and most specially the Capital Brass Quintet. In October Bob returned to Minnesota to conduct at the 75th Reunion of the Association of Minnesota Army Reserve Bands, where he had been commander of the 451st Army Band in the early 1980s. His joy was tangible as he led some of his favorite musicians through America the Beautiful in his final appearance behind the baton.
Bob was both a simple and a complex man, enjoying a huge variety of things in his life. If you ever wanted to talk about religion or history, of almost any sort, he would engage you with great fervor…for hours. He could be dropped in any town and within minutes be taking shortcuts and backroads—a second sense of sorts. He loved cars and had a fine assortment over the years that he enjoyed taking for road trips and visiting car shows. Nobody believed he ran five miles at lunch everyday in the South Carolina summers, but he never thought much of it. He loved camping stateside on big trips, wearing out his passport traveling abroad, and pie—all the pies, but especially apple, pumpkin, and key lime—being a life-long Lutheran. He really took pleasure in improving the land and grass grazing, taking somebody new to malts for their first, fixing up his cars, discovering the next horn he wanted, telling Ole and Lena jokes, all his church activities, talking stocks/cars/music/travel/anything with his boys, spoiling Mikki, and taking special interest in letting people know how important they are and encouraging them in their gifts. What a blessing he was, in the way he spoiled us all.
Bob loved deeply and was so loved by his friends and family. Romans 12:10 (a contemporary reading) talks about outdoing each other in mutual affection and getting used to playing second fiddle, which sums up the relationship Bob and Mikki have had for the past 30+ years. The mutual adoration was palpable, and nothing ever shook that. They adored each other. His sons made their life complete, each bringing their own delight to Bob as they grew into the amazing men he loved watching them become. Bob loved living in Blythewood on the family “compound” surrounded by his in-laws (Bo and Larry Corley, Chris and Sharon Corley) and niece and nephews (Wren, Gunter, and Cread), believing this to be a little slice of heaven on earth. Spending a day with his family, on his tractor, building something together, hanging out at the lake, or just being together was his idea of a really good life.
Bob is survived by his adoring partner and dearest friend, Mikki, who feels just so lucky to have been his wife; and his sons, Grant (Pamela), John (Jenny), Robert, and Leighton; grandsons, Jetson and Xavier; and his brother Jim (Joyce) and their sons, Clayton (Amy), Jeremy, and Chad; as well family in South Carolina and Minnesota, friends, and his lap dogs. He is predeceased by his parents, and his infant sister, Marlys Gay.
Bob’s service will be at 1 PM, Friday, November 17, 2023, at Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, with visitation at 11:30 in the same location, and burial after at the Family Cemetery at 111 Pineview Church Road in Blythewood, SC. Pastor Jason Schafer will lead the services, with Pastor Jack Younts and Reverend Doctor RJ Gore assisting.
Bob is honored to have Jeff Barham, Speedy Gladden, Jack Hamrick, Wayne Rice, Chuck Shults, and Mitch Williams as Pall Bearers. Honorary Pall Bearers are Ruth Blackmon, Don Caughman, Eddy Davis, Dorothy Edgerton, Cliff Emery, Gail Ferrick, John Ferry, Anthony Jackson, Delano Meyers, Dave Mulder, Kevin Nation, Loren Swanson, Don Wuori, Jamie Ray, Members of Breath of Life Lutheran Church, and Previous Scout Masters and Members of Troop 224 in Blythewood. We are indebted to the ways they have contributed to our lives.
Shives Funeral Home is in charge of Bob’s arrangements. His obituary and other information can be found at shivesfuneralhome.com. The service will be live streamed there for those who are not able to attend in person. The family would like to thank all those who have been so very good to them in their journey recently, with too many to begin to name. If you would like to offer anything in Bob’s memory, please consider Pulmonary Fibrosis organizations or a charity of your choice, and if you’d like, lift up someone else today as you go about your normal, ordinary, awesome, beautiful life…it’d make Bob smile.