Friday, July 30, 2021

Gary Sanford Hirsch

In Loving Memory


Gary Sanford Hirsch, my father, passed away on July 24th 2021 at 5:00 am. He is survived by his two sons, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.

My father was born in Los Angeles, California, on Friday January 12th, 1945 to Sanford and Marion Hirsch. He was their first child. Born at the end of the worst war the world had ever seen, when our country was experiencing a cultural rebirth. He would live to see the dawning of the modern age. My aunt Lynn followed up three years later.

In the 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam war, my father headed the call of his country and joined the military. He scored high on his exams and entered the Navy. He could have joined the Army or the Marines or even the Air Force, but felt his talents and skills would be put to better use away from the abject chaos that was the Vietnamese battlefield, run by non-combatant politicians rather than actual military brass. He was a communications yeoman and worked with a machine called a teletype. I never fully understood what exactly that was, but the way he described it, it sounded like a fax machine. Can't imagine paying someone to man a fax machine, but such were the days before every six year old could operate one.

My father went to CSUN and graduated with a degree in Psychology. He continued his education at the graduate level, at UCLA, and earned a certificate in Human Resources.

In 1970, he met and married my mother Kathleen Anne Sullivan; an ironic story. My father was always an assertive but not aggressive man. He was never afraid to step up, raise his hand, or talk to people, and yet it was my mother who asked him out on their first date. But in her defense, she was a very assertive person as well. They both encouraged that in my brother and me. 

He will be interred at Willamette National Cemetary, with my mother Kathleen Hirsch. Services to be held on August 12, 2021 with full military honor.


I was born in 1974, and my brother in 1976. My earliest memory of my father was when I was about three years old. Dad wanted me to hold his hand when we went places, but I was so tiny and his hands were so big that I could only grasp his index and middle fingers. Before He passed, one last time, I grasped his fingers as I did as a child, and said goodbye as a symbolic gesture. 

When I was a kid, I asked my father what he wanted to be growing up, what line of work he wanted to go into. He always said the same thing:  Police Officer. I always thought it was so brave and noble that he would not only want to serve his country, but also his community. I asked him why he didn't go into law enforcement, he said he didn't think he had the confidence. Later in life he learned about police reserve programs, and in 1987 he was able to realize his dream of being accepted to the Los Angeles Police Academy. I always thought the LAPD reserve program was a little lackluster. Reserves were limited to what they could do. But when we moved to Oregon, Dad got into the Hillsboro Police Reserve program where he was given the same responsibilities as regular officers. He would work a 40 hour work week at his regular job and then put eight hours in on Friday and Saturday nights. He was one of the best officers, reserve or otherwise. Dad was a born leader. He naturally sought out, and was sought after for leadership roles. At one time he was the head of the Hillsboro reserve program. He was so well respected that when he left, the department gave him a ceremonial badge and certificate of appreciation for his years of service.

My father was the single greatest role model in my life. I would have joined the Navy in his honor had I not had a childhood full of illness. In 1992, when I was in high school, I was given the task of completing a career exploration program. I chose to join the Police Explorer program in Lake Oswego and later I transferred to Hillsboro. Dad was never so proud of me in my life. It was so great for him to see me in uniform with a badge just like him. Sometimes I would go out on ride-alongs with him on Friday or Saturday night when it was really busy and we'd dial up our adrenaline to 11! I was 18 years old, still a kid, but I made sure to conduct myself in a safe and professional manner so as not to besmirch my father's reputation.

My father raised my brother and I in a Christian home. He constantly reminded us that Christ is the head of the house. Like most Christians he had Bible verses that he was really fond of, but none resonated more in my brother and I than Exodus 20:12 - Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Even when I disagreed with him, even when I had an argument, even at the worst of times, I NEVER dishonored my father.

We moved to Oregon in 1989. My parents were planning on starting a franchise, but at the last minute, something akin to a bait-and-switch happened and the deal fell through. My father still moved us. The first few years were very hard for him. The job market was brutal and many Oregonians were very unkind to people from out of state, especially from California. When things got tough, he stuck it out with the family. He didn't leave my mother. He did the best he could to make lemonade out of the lemons he was given. Later, in desperation, he moved us back to California. I hated this. I was bullied a lot when we lived there before and never wanted to step foot in that state again. I remember the night before we were to move, I couldn't sleep. I had been up all night. Dad came into my room and unexpectedly offered to call it all off. I said no. I don't know why I said no, but he was seriously going to tell the movers to leave.

That day fell heavy on his heart, and for years he was afraid I'd never forgive him. We were only there for about seven weeks when my dad realized what a mistake that was and so we moved back to Oregon. I'm pretty sure he realized right away that it was a mistake, but ever the trooper, he did his best to try to make it work. This was when I learned forgiveness. Although I had told him many times before he passed, I told my dad again, in his last lucid days, that I never held it against him, I held no grudge and had only love and respect for him.

Everything was better when Dad was involved. When we were kids, my father coached our softball team - we finished first place. When I was in Boy Scouts, Dad came on the camping trips with us. He absolutely hated camping. Sleeping in a tent, in the dirt, and having to relieve himself in the bush never appealed to him. Turns out, I hated it too, and thus the Boy Scouts were not for me, but Dad did things for us he wouldn't normally do on his own because he wanted us to have a childhood that was happy and fun. He wanted us to experience new things, even if he knew we'd hate it. And he was always so generous. He always let me have the last piece of pizza and would give us the food out of his mouth if it came to that. His family was the most important thing in his life.

I can't think of anything bad I would ever say about my father, not only out of respect, but because I honestly cannot think of anything. The good overwhelms the bad. I know our family certainly had it's fair share of difficult times, but thinking of him, I am overwhelmed with good memories of Christmas, birthdays, holidays, family vacations, etc. So much love.

My mom passed away in December 2020. I'd like to think that my parents are celebrating their 51st anniversary in Heaven, dancing, singing, and drinking Champagne. I've never seen a love so strong.

Rest in peace Dad. Until we meet again in Heaven. Crockett is with me and we're doing fine. He's my new best friend.