NEWTON – Gary Craig Hadsell passed away Oct. 9 at Newton Presbyterian Manor. He was 79. Although Gary spent his last year of life in the Harvey County area, several local family members have decades-long ties, including his daughter, Kerry Grosch (formerly of Hesston); and granddaughters, Julie Hendricks and Tami Mosqueda (James), a grandson, Adam Johnson; and two great-granddaughters, Brylie Hendricks and Kynlie Hendricks, all of Newton.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 4, at Petersens Funeral Home, Newton, with Chaplain Greg Schmidt (Newton Presbyterian Manor and Heart & Soul Hospice) officiating. Burial will immediately follow with U.S. Air Force Military Honors at Greenwood Cemetery, Newton. The body has been cremated.
Gary was born “across the Ohio River” on Sept. 18, 1943, in Wheeling, W.Va., to William Ellis and Eleanor Jane (Pospisil) Hadsell, of Shadyside, Ohio. He moved to Waterford, MI as a toddler when his parents accepted teaching positions within the Waterford school district.
He enjoyed the relative solitude and attention doted on him as a single child for many years before his sister, Beth Lynne, was born. They were far enough apart in age and interests that they each had their own sets of friends and hobbies nearly a generation apart. His parents and sister preceded him in death.
Gary was raised in a musical family. His father was a popular piano player in the silent movie theater era, which paid his way through college before there was such a thing as student loans. Gary tinkered with piano keys but found his passion when he began strumming guitar strings in his adolescence.
By high school, he played in a band (“Invictas”) with three class mates, including Dick Wagner, who went on to play with Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, and Rod Stewart and to co-write songs with Kiss and Air Supply. “Many times,” the bandmates skipped school or passed on Friday date nights to jam out in the Hadsell basement, Gary’s mother would lament. She used to cringe at the ruckus, but laugh that they could be out cruising the streets late at night and getting into trouble somewhere instead.
Gary was a sharp student but saw little value in documented proof. He viewed himself as a savvy test taker, which he reasoned only artificially skewed true intelligence. He dropped out of high school a couple of weeks before graduation, figuring he didn’t need a piece of paper saying he learned enough to graduate. His parents, both educators, were mortified. They offered him three choices: Military, college, or a job.
Gary entered the United States Air Force in 1961, immediately fell in love with and married Belinda Chalender, the daughter of a career Air force officer. Married life afforded them privacy and housing off the Chanute Air Force Base. Gary’s military service centered on teaching classes on how to safely assemble and disable bombs. The couple had two children, Kerry (Grosch) in 1964, and Craig Scott in 1965.
After an honorable discharge in 1965, Gary and the family returned to Michigan, where he worked for five years in law enforcement – starting in Charlotte before moving on to the Lansing Police Department. He later took a job investigating insurance fraud cases for a company based in Detroit, eventually moving to a supervisory role in which he taught newly hired investigators to spot signs of fraud. The distant commute was particularly hard on family life. Gary and Belinda divorced in 1973.
Belinda died in 1974, and Gary suddenly found himself in a single-parent role with two young children. He had remarried but this partner was unstable, frequently dropping the children off at places and not remembering where she left them. That marriage very quickly dissolved, and the children moved a series of times to live with various friends and then with family as Gary became a guitarist and singer in a new band.
Eventually, the band renovated an old school bus into a camper type unit, and Gary’s children joined him on the road during their adolescence, traveling from one gig to another to another through most states west of Indiana and from the Canadian border south to Tyler, Texas. Gary landed in Kansas for a few years as his teens reached high-school age before he eventually moved to the Reno, Nev. area, where music gigs were more plentiful.
His final career change (due to mounting back issues) involved working as a PBX operator for a casino hotel, where he memorized 1000s of room connection numbers to swiftly transfer incoming calls to anywhere in the facility. Gary began to notice his memory starting to wane – i.e. what turned out to be early stages of dementia. He felt he had no choice but to retire before his worsening memory became apparent to others and his work suffered.
Gary’s daughter moved him back to Kansas to live with her in 2019 after his fourth wife died and his health began particularly declining. He moved into memory care for more advanced health care needs at the height of Covid-19 in 2020.
Although Gary had been suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease for the past few years, he remained fairly amiable and upbeat in most interactions he had with staff and residents alike wherever he received care. He was most well-known for his ever-present winter hat and huge engaging smile. Among his favorite care providers was Christina, who adored that smile.
Ultimately, Gary contracted what seemed like a mild case of Covid-19 within a week of his 79th birthday. He seemed about over it, but suddenly a fever spiked. His body was too weak to overcome the virus in the end.
Other survivors include: His son, Craig Hadsell, of Valley Center; granddaughters Crystal Hadsell (TJ Armstrong) of Texas and Amanda (Zech) Keenan of Nixa, MO.; great-grandchildren Adam Lee and McKenzie Lee; and Isaac, Cadence, Levi, and Titus Keenan; and several cousins.
Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the family, in care of the funeral home.