Gary Wayne Crenshaw, 81, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, passed away on December 3, 2021, in Independence, Missouri. Gary was born on October 12, 1940, to the loving home of Chester and Nellie Crenshaw in Independence, Missouri.
Gary grew up in Independence graduating from William Chrisman High School. He would go onto have a very successful career with ATT for over 35 years before retiring; during those 35 years he was elected to Alderman and Mayor Pro-Tem for the city of Lee’s Summit. After retirement he enjoyed careers at Don Kahan, and HyVee.
Gary is preceded in death by his parents Chester Crenshaw and Nellie (Liddle) Crenshaw and his beloved son Patrick Crenshaw. He is survived by his wife Sharon Crenshaw of Lee’s Summit, Daughter Shelly (Steve) Givan of Lee’s Summit, Sons Kevin Crenshaw of Liberty, and Chris (Aimee) Crenshaw of Lone Jack, Sister Karen (Jim) Anderson. 7 Grandchildren, 5 Great Grandchildren and many other family and friends.
Services for Gary will be in the care of Longview Funeral Home & Cemetery- 12700 SE Raytown Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64149. Visitation will be Friday evening December 10, 2021, from 5-7pm, with a Graveside Service Saturday December 11, 2021, at 2pm. Following the graveside will be a Celebration of Life at 3:00 PM, Independence First United Methodist Church. 400 West Maple Ave, Independence, Missouri.
In Lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to One Community Hospice in Gary's Honor.
The obituary only tells a small part of someone's life when there is so much more.
After a valiant battle with Alzheimer’s and complications, Gary succumbed to this devastating disease on December 3rd, just miles from where he was born though life took him around the world.
Gary grew up in a one-bedroom home until his Dad Chet built an extra room off of the back. He grew up a simple man, but oddly this was a fact he never shared. We never heard the "I slept on the couch for a bit in a one-bedroom home," as he paid for new homes and upgraded light fixtures. He was just authentic. He looked on the bright side. Never complained about anything.
One of the best stories about Gary’s spirit, was that his grandfather Liddle drove past the house and found 3-year-old Gary tied to a tree so that his mother could complete ANY task. He would run out the door & down the street the minute she'd hang laundry. Grandpa Liddle insisted he'd better never find Gary tied to the tree again! Poor Nellie!
Mischief followed Gary throughout life as his parents would receive calls after the William Chrisman football game that their son had climbed the Independence water tower. Oddly enough, one of his biggest contributions later in life was to expand the Lee’s Summit water towers.
After high school, Gary attended CMSU/UCM until his parents found him bowling with empty beer bottles. He came home from college early & went to work for Ma Bell, and night school at Rockhurst College.
As a teen in Independence, MO, he would wave at Harry Truman. Later he was inspired by JFK. His grandson Ryan said, "He was JFK." His neighbor, the late Bill Baker, was the first to encourage him to become involved in local politics. After he finished his term as an Alderman in Lee’s Summit, he was offered a couple lobbyist posts in Jefferson City. In the end he turned down these substantial offers with all the perks to stay in Lee's Summit with his family and little league teams. “It was blood money, basically, not my deal," he admitted.
He met his bride of 59 years while Sharon was interviewing for the phone company. Three months later they were engaged and 6 months later they married. They enjoyed the joys and sorrows of raising a family of four. In 2002, he found his youngest son, age 27 after Patrick took his life. Gary’s strength & resilience were never more apparent than during those weeks when he held his entire family together with love, honor, and ever-present humor…somehow.
He was never serious for more than a few minutes. Those times were usually when the Chiefs weren't playing up to snuff or the Royals missed a line drive. He was still yelling at the TV just a few weeks ago. A season ticket holder for years, he looked forward to every game. While hospitalized, it was the sound of ESPN that lulled him right to sleep. It was his lullaby.
Also a huge Mizzou fan. it was fun to wake up and see his house had been graffitied in KU swag by his friend Jim down the street. He was old school too! He would listen to the commentators from Kansas City, watching a silent broadcast. He loved golfing with neighbors and any local tournament. He spent nights huddled around a table with neighbors drinking Schlitz beer, losing at poker, loving every minute of it.
Equally passionate about recreational sports, he spent every available hour and then some coaching Kevin, Chris, and Patrick. He said that a bad coach had once almost made him hate a sport. He wanted to make a difference. He made some of his most significant impact with the kids on his rec teams. The outpouring of love from grown men has been beyond heartwarming. A college player, Patrick Ritchie from KU Basketball said, "Coach Gary was my best coach." which says something knowing he was just a dad trying to make a difference.
He retired early from his career after years in many departments at ATT. Started out in the mailroom & worked his way up to a staff position to head of security in St. Louis. He got to hide out and play PI until he found the guy stealing money from the coin phones. He was also the best supervisor these folks had ever had before, was the story shared with his son-in-law, Steve at a retirement party. His team laughed about how he'd go get some gal out of her apartment and bring her into work, refused to let her call in, and get terminated as he believed in her. He helped her and gave her the tough love she needed to turn her life around. She's now in Little Rock, last we heard, worked her way up to a top position at ATT because Gary believed in her and would wake her to come to work. No fanfare, just making a difference in the lives of one person at a time.
One of the most significant things about Gary was his passion for community and public service. He was humble. After being voted Mayor Pro-Tem for Lee's Summit, one of the only Democrats in a very red area, Gary worked to get things accomplished by not letting anyone take things too seriously. Oddly, when pulling photos for his slide show, we found photos of him on floats in parades, stashed behind a 5 x 7 of his son Chris. He would never display photos of himself on a float. He would get thanked from stage when county executives won, but he was never flashy about his victories or accomplishments. He was a servant leader. Just like Harry.
Luckier than most, Sharon, Shelly, Kevin, Chris, and Patrick, along with Kevin Donovan, Jeanne Whitaker, and Steve Givan, had some of the most enjoyable dinners “this side of the nut house” as Gary would quote every line from Christmas Vacation Movie or Caddyshack. His life was made complete with the addition of Ryan (Lynanne), Shannon (James) Lee, & Nolan Donovan. Then life kept them hopping with Nicholas & Allison Crenshaw along with Sidney & Cate Crenshaw. He was completely smitten for his great grandsons Silas, Sawyer, Sampson, JJ & baby Donovan. Family was everything.
Late in his life when asked what he was most proud of, and he said, without hesitation, it was being elected CWA President at the age of 27. “We had a really big strike (they got better healthcare) and they underestimated me. I was able to get lots of people the help they needed." It was a big healthcare win for union employees. At the end of his life, he wasn't most proud of his children, because he knew his children came through him, not from him. He wasn't proud of the homes he built or any material wealth or things of any kind. He wasn't proud of anything other than the people he was able to help during his time here on this earth.
When traveling with family, their jaws would drop in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, sure enough, someone would holler, "Gary Crenshaw?!?" He was a little bit like traveling with one of the Beatles. Completely across the country, someone saw that 6’3” curly head and off he went to chat. We all know he's rejoicing now with so many friends hollering "Gary Crenshaw, how did you get past the bouncer?" All know he’s still embracing his youngest son Packey, after almost 20 years apart. We aren’t sure of anything except that Gary is laughing, having fun, and looking on the bright side, as always. Well, done, good and faithful servant.
Men like Gary can’t be contained in one body or lifetime. He was bigger than life. His soul and antics live on in all of the lives he touched. If he could have said goodbye to everyone, he’d have said, "May the road rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
Thank you for rejoicing in this one special life from all of Gary’s immediate family, cousins, nieces and nephews, and beloved friends.