Gerald Dwaine Garst, a retired special education teacher and diagnostician, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, at the age of 82 at his son’s home in Amarillo from complications of advanced dementia. “Jerry” was born on March 4, 1938, in Larned, Kansas. His parents, LeRoy Dwaine Garst (fondly called “Blackie” for his coal black hair) and Maxine Ruggels Garst, raised him in Russell, Kansas, and then in Amarillo upon moving to Texas in 1949. He was the third of their four children.
Jerry attended Horace Mann Middle School and Amarillo High School, graduating in 1957. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve that June; his participation funded his college courses at West Texas State College in Canyon, Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1963. He started teaching special education in 1964.
The following year, Jerry met and married a petite beauty and the love of his life, Theresa Jean Hawley, on April 17. His career took them to Dumas, Texas; while living there, they had two sons, Thomas and Kenneth. Their firstborn, Thomas, made a notable entrance into the world in 1966, being born in their Porsche sports car on the trip to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Amarillo during a snowstorm. When a policeman pulled Jerry over for speeding, he famously proclaimed, “My wife just had a hospital. I’m taking her to the baby!” Later, when recounting the story of the birth, he said, “There sure isn’t much room in a Porsche.”
Eventually, the family moved to Amarillo, where Jerry continued to teach and advance his education, earning a Master of Education in Counseling from WTSU in 1970. He began working as a children’s diagnostician for the Region 17 Education Service Center in 1973; this lap of his career moved the family to Roaring Springs, Texas, for the next 11 years. In 1984, they returned to Dumas, where Jerry worked for the school district until his retirement in 1997. Later, he and Theresa moved to Amarillo to be close to family.
Outside of work, Jerry always kept busy. He had many interests and hobbies. As a youth, he learned about automobile repair while working for his auto mechanic father after school. In college, he took up painting and photography. He volunteered much of his time for schools’ extracurricular activities — such as shooting football film for coaches. He taught photography and photo lab to interested students. He learned everything he could about computers and software as they became pervasive in society. He spent many a vacation tracking the history of ancestors buried and lost in the tri-state area and compiled two books that covered the Garst and Hawley families’ lineage. In retirement, he returned to a favorite pastime, joining the Golden Spread Woodcarvers Club, where he made new friends and continued fellowship with old ones.
A lifelong Christian, Jerry was a member of Parkview Christian Church in Amarillo from its inception in 1952. While living in Motley County, he attended First United Methodist Church. In Dumas, he joined North Plains Christian Church, where he often gave sermons and served as both an elder and a deacon.
He had many enduring friendships, including those with Johnny Britten and Wes Elder. Sam White, a preacher at his Dumas church, has been a steadfast friend, helping with Jerry’s care as his health declined and he entered hospice care.
Jerry is preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Richard Garst; his sister, Phyllis Gwynn, and her husband, Eddie; his nephew, Lee Gwynn; and his grandson, Cameron Garst. He is survived by his wife and son Thomas (Amarillo) along with his son and daughter-in-law, Kenneth and Kara (Lago Vista, Texas); his sister and brother-in-law, Karen and Max Parish; his sister-in-law, Donna Cunningham; grandsons Garrett and Joseph; granddaughters Heather and Hannah; and many nieces and nephews.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be a memorial service. If you would like to honor Jerry and the difference his life made, the family suggests contributions be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Kindred Hospice Foundation in lieu of flowers. There are three ways to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association: 1) online at https://www.alz.org/ ; 2) over the phone 24/7 at 1-800-272-3900; 3) via mail to the National Processing Center, Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011. Donations to the Hospice Kindred at Home Foundation can be found online at https://curohealthservices.com/donate/.
To send flowers to Gerald's family, please visit our floral store.