Obituary: Gary Worton, 80, of Pentwater

July 31, 2023

Gary Worton

Obituary: Gary Worton, 80, of Pentwater

Gary Hunt Worton passed away peacefully at home early in the morning of May, 9, 2023. Those early morning hours on either side of daybreak, were his favorite times of the day. As a hunter and avid outdoorsman, he loved watching the world wake up, while waiting for ducks to splash into the decoys, or for the fish to start biting. He was a bird watcher, able to identify them by sight, call, silhouette, or wing beat. During his final days, he still enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders, and calling other people’s attention to them.

Gary was born on March 7, 1943 in Buffalo, New York, to George and Elizabeth (nee Umbach) Worton. It was not long after that when George was called up into the United States Army, to serve in Europe. Gary spent a lot of time when his father was gone with his Grandfather Umbach, who was a veteran of the World War I. Gary and his mother Betty received a telegram from George after the end of the war. It told them quite simply to “Meet me in Pentwater, Mich.” Gary would never stray too far from Pentwater, if he could help it, for the rest of his life.

He attended the French School, a one room schoolhouse in Summit Township through the eighth grade. He later graduated from Ludington High school, before continuing his education for another two years at Central Michigan University.  Always when on break from school, regardless of grade level or location, Gary’s time was spent learning to hunt and fish with his father, George.  It didn’t matter if he had to drive for hours or not.  He was spending his time in the great outdoors!

After his time at Central, Gary left school to start work at Dow Chemical in Ludington. He was soon drafted, however, and spent 18 months in South Korea. Despite being one of the best marksmen around he wound up behind a desk because he was a good communicator and knew how to type. After his service, he returned to work at Dow and remained there until his retirement.

On 3 July 1970, he married Sharon Samuel. They had met on the beach when they were very little, and the story that Gary liked to tell went like this: he returned home from the beach to find out that he had a little sister, and they were going to let him choose her middle name. So, he gave his parents the name of the little girl he had met at the beach that day. They were later to discover, while looking at some pictures of Sharon as a young girl, that Gary had named his sister after his wife.

In July of 1975, Gary and Sharon welcomed their first and only child, Traci. Gary spent a great deal of time teaching Traci how to hunt, fish, and clean what they took home. They developed a strong bond over the years and had many stories to share as Gary slowly spent less time in the field as he aged.

Gary also taught his future son-in-law Ed hunting and fishing skills, starting when Ed and Traci were still dating. Shortly after his daughter married, Gary retired for the first time, and the fall hunting season saw him rowing across the lake at 3 a.m., hours before shooting light, just so he could enjoy the peace of watching and listening to a new day beginning.  He often referred to these times as his “sunrise service on the marsh”.

Soon after his retirement, he took up a part time job at the Summit Township Transfer Site, keeping things clean and organized, and visiting with everyone that came through. Gary always had a bright smile, helping hand, a hug if you needed one and always a joke or two to share.  When his grandchildren were born, nobody left without taking a look at the pictures he kept in his shirt pocket.

Eventually, to the dismay of the patrons of the transfer site, Gary retired from the dump and spent more time at home with his wife and family.  After a spell, dementia and congestive heart failure took hold and Gary spent more and more time at home, being tended to by his wife, then later on by Traci, Ed, and his sister and brother-in-law Gail and Tom Lykens.

Gary was preceded in death by his wife, Sharon Worton; his granddaughter Daria Reitsma; his father and mother, George and Betty Worton; and his beloved hunting dogs and pets, Belle- dog, Stormy, Shadow, Lucy, Jesse and Cassie. 

Gary is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Traci and Edward Retsma; granddaughter Madeline Reitsma; his sister and brother-in-law Gail and Tom Lykens; close friends of the family Betty Lott, Al and Helen Copenhaver, and many, many friends from over the years at Dow and the Transfer Site.

Services to celebrate his “life well lived” will be held on Saturday August 5, 2023 at Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington.  Visitation and goodies (Gary, was a walking sweet tooth) will be at 10 a.m., and the service will be at noon. Pastor David Keller, presiding. Camouflage attire is encouraged.

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