Gary Gene Bair, beloved husband of 44 years to Debbie, proud father of Don and Jeremy, father-in-law to our darling Helen and Kristy, grandfather to our cherished Kristina, Hunter, Tanner and Cameryn, and buddy of Tank, passed away on Aug. 15, 2016, at home in Twisp, following his long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Gene was born on Aug. 16, 1951, to Don and Ruth Bair in Sandpoint, Idaho, joining his older brother Fred. He was raised in the Sandpoint and Darby, Montana, areas, moving to Orofino, Idaho, in 1970 where he met Debbie Day. They were married on Nov. 22, 1972, in Seattle, and made their first home in Lewiston, Idaho.
Gene worked at a lot of jobs in his lifetime: pumping gas, ranching, haying, working cattle in big stockyards, helping at auctions, brick laying, building bridges, cutting sod and firefighting, but he was first and foremost a logger at heart and he loved being in the woods. He pulled green chain, tail-sawed, sorted behind the edger and worked as a saw filer in several saw mills, then ran skidder and line machines, and felled trees for a number of different gypo logging operations.
But his favorite job was for Columbia Helicopters, where he was one of the top cutters for the company. In addition to falling timber for them in Idaho, Montana and Oregon, he also learned to fly helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes during that time and he thought that was as much fun as racing cars.
In 1979 Gene moved his young family to the Methow Valley while working with Columbia Helicopters and that is where we continued to live after he was injured in a logging accident. Gene became a partner in the local saw shop, doing all of the saw repair, and soon expanded the business to include dealerships in motorcycles, snowmobiles, and a Radio Shack distributorship. After selling that business, Gene worked for OK Cascade for several years, then taught himself how to do auto body repair and opened his own shop, Bair Enterprises, offering custom welding and design in addition to painting trucks, semi-trailers and large equipment along with regular auto body work.
Due to the beginning of health issues, Gene closed his shop in 2000 and had a grand adventure with his son Don traveling and fishing in Alaska, then finding work building log homes for a resort. He liked doing that type of work too, and when he came back to the lower 48, he, Don and his brother Fred did a number of beautiful construction jobs in the Northwest. His culminating projects and the houses that he was so proud of building were the Harringtons’ lovely homes in Manson and Woodinville and the Rowlands’ beautiful home in Twin Lakes. Gene’s gift was his enthusiasm to learn how to do new things and he learned a lot of great skills from his father-in-law, Everett Day. He had a very mathematical, logical mind and could look at a situation and soon figure out an easier, cheaper or more effective way to do the job. He never saw a problem that he couldn’t work through and he always said that the impossible just takes a little bit longer. We loved having him around anytime we were doing an art or craft, sewing or quilting project or home decorating because he always had a tool or an idea of how to make the task easier to do.
Gene had the rare opportunity to teach shop for one year at Liberty Bell High School and he loved working with the students and helping them discover the excitement of designing and creating beautiful things out of metal or rebuilding small engines to make them run. He taught them how math really does have its uses in the work world. He mentored a lot of people over the years and helped them to learn new skills.
Gene served several terms on the Twisp Town Council, was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader, taught hunters’ safety classes, and helped with community events. In 1990, we learned to line dance and Gene was a fabulous, graceful partner. Line dancing has provided us with a wonderful variety of friends and years of fun and enjoyment together. The last few years he has kept the Twisp Airport Racetrack plowed all winter to provide a safe place for people to walk for exercise or to walk their dogs. To the delight of his friends, his gardening, cooking, baking and canning have kept us very well fed and he enjoyed talking about new recipes and food ideas with his sons.
Gene loved all types of hunting, fishing, camping, boating, scuba diving and archery, and all of these activities were usually done with a large group of our family and friends. Kids were always welcome and encouraged to come with us no matter what we were doing and he excelled at teaching everyone how to catch a big fish. He loved to race cars and he competed on a number of racetracks around the northwest. Gene holds the all-time fastest track record of all classes for the Okanogan Country Raceways.
Gene cherished and honored women, always respecting, protecting and defending them. He valued his family and friends and felt lucky to have so many wonderful people in Washington, Montana and Idaho sharing his life and his passions. He was an honorable, dependable, trustworthy man, well respected by everyone who knew him. He loved his family. He will live long in our hearts and memories and he is missed.
An informal memorial dessert social will be held at the Bair home at 51A Twisp Airport Road in Twisp on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, from 1–3 p.m. Please bring a lawn chair and a story to share.