Gary Leslie Groves, 82
Gary Leslie Groves, 82, passed away Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, at his Polson residence. A man of vision and action, Gary was born the last of six children to Louis and Mary Groves in the family farmhouse on the west shore of Polson Bay on Aug. 17, 1939.
He graduated in 1958 from Polson High School, where he was a star athlete in football and wrestling. Upon graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where his two children, Heather Marie and Ward Douglas, were born. Dad was very proud of his service to our country.
Immediately after being honorably discharged, Gary began a 45-year career as a journeyman wireman electrician and proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). His work took him all over the country including Texas, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Alaska. During his career he helped build numerous hydroelectric dams in Idaho and Washington, at least two nuclear plants, several airports, and he spent three years in Prudhoe Bay during the initial construction of the Alaska Pipeline.
When he wasn’t traveling the country working, Dad was busy building and operating a campground and marina on Flathead Lake. Dad purchased part of the family farm property from his parents and over several years converted it into what is now known as “Bear Harbor” on the West Shore. Dad chose that name based on his own nickname of “Bear Groves,” which he was known as while playing sports for Polson High.
Dad always had a thirst for adventure and for doing things few others could or would. He brought the first catamaran sailboats to Flathead Lake – first with a 12-foot Aqua Cat he saw and bought at the Detroit Boat Show in 1966, and later with Hobie Cats, all of which he raced on the Lake between 1967 and 1976. One of the things Dad was proud of was setting the fastest recorded sail time around Wildhorse Island; a record that likely still stands. To allow him to cover more ground more quickly during these years of his life, Dad earned his private pilot license and enjoyed flying throughout the Pacific Northwest.
After selling Bear Harbor in 1976, Dad had a 43-foot sloop built, which he named “Ehectl” (after the Aztec Wind God) and over the next 25-plus years, when he wasn’t working in the electrical trade, sailed his boat along the Pacific Coast. Ultimately Dad sailed his boat at various times along the entire West Coast of North America from as far north as Juneau, Alaska, and as far south as the Panama Canal. After surviving a tropical storm off the coast of Central America and going through the Panama Canal, Dad spent several months sailing to numerous islands in the Caribbean.
Following his retirement, Dad became a “snow bird,” spending his summers at his beloved Flathead Lake and his winters in Yuma, Ariz. over some 25 years. In 2001 he was diagnosed with cancer and lost his left kidney. But that didn’t slow him down! After successful chemotherapy, Dad spent another 20 years traveling and living in Montana and Arizona until 2020, when his cancer re-emerged. To his dismay, Dad could not make his annual trip to Yuma last winter. But after battling through additional rounds of chemotherapy, a heart attack and pneumonia over the last 18 months of his life, Dad was feeling strong again and looking forward to driving his motor coach back to Yuma this October. Unfortunately, he was called away before undertaking that next adventure. Dad died peacefully in his sleep. All in all, a life well lived!
Graveside services for Gary were held Sept. 24, 2021 at Lakeview Cemetery with full military honors. Memories and condolences may be sent to the family at www.lakefuneralhomeandcremation.com.
Arrangements are under the care of The Lake Funeral Home and Crematory.