Gary L. Southerland, 68, of Westfield, Indiana, went to be with the Lord on January 12, 2020, after living courageously with occupational cancer for many years. He was the real deal: a proud husband, father, grandfather, friend, and dedicated servant of his community.
Gary started as a volunteer firefighter in 1974. Westfield Fire Department hired him as the second full-time firefighter (unit number 102) in 1978. He continued to serve for 34 more years. Gary had many titles throughout his career—lieutenant, captain, chief—but most just called him “South.”
He was married to his bride and the love of his life, Tamra, for 41 years. His love for God, Tamra, family, friends, and community defined him. All that knew him felt that love.
Gary looked for and embraced joy in the typical day-to-day activities. He had a quick wit and enjoyed pranking his friends. Gary was a jack of all trades and could fix and build anything, always while whistling. He made many ideas come to life over the years while working in his workshop. Gary was always one phone call away from helping anyone who asked. His heart was kind, and he truly believed in living in that kindness and love.
Gary was known for inviting the policemen to stop by the firehouse for a homecooked meal and fellowship on holidays, knowing they were also away from their families. He would hold important meetings with these same police officers and other firefighters that consisted of playing pool, calling them “Community Relations Meetings.” That was just another example of how he supported and loved people.
His sons Nick and Josh have followed their father into the fire service, and his daughter Brooke is serving in the medical field. He was so proud of them. Gary could often be found at breakfast or lunch with a friend, telling them about his family with pride.
Gary was a loving grandfather to five granddaughters, Kennedy, Addison, Makayla, Casey, and Reese. He found joy in playing, laughing, and riding in the annual 4th of July tractor parade. He loved his granddaughters fully and completely.
Our hearts grieve for him every day, but we continue to feel his presence in the sound of someone whistling, the sight of a red tractor, the look and smell of a fresh cut lawn, and connecting with those around us. We will honor his legacy through living and loving by his example of love and service to those around us.