Byron Eugene "Gene" Bassett(1938 - 2013)

Byron Eugene "Gene" Bassett


Byron Eugene "Gene" Bassett died December 31, 2013 of pneumonia resulting from a massive stroke on July 23, 2013. Gene was born July 6, 1938 in Turlock, to Byron and Dorothy (Gay) Bassett.

His parents divorced when Gene was four and he was raised by his grandparents until his father married Margaret (Campbell) when he was seven. He attended Tracy High School, Modesto Junior College and one year at the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific) in the pharmacy program before being accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Graduating from West Point in the Class of 1963, Gene started his 20-year military career in Artillery with Jump School at Ft. Benning and Basic at Ft. Sill before a three year tour in Germany. Switching to Signal Corps, he spent 1968 in Vietnam followed by a short time at Ft. Lewis WA before going to John's Hopkins University where he earned an MS in Chemistry in 1969. He returned to West Point as a chemistry instructor followed by three years in Korea. His latter tours were at Ft. Hood, TX, Ft. Lee, VA and Alexandria, VA at the U.S. Army Military Personnel Center.

He married Linda (Madden) in June 1963, following graduation; they had two sons while in Germany, a daughter while at John's Hopkins and adopted a daughter while in Korea. Divorced in 1979, Gene met Ginger (Dorwart) in September 1982; they were married December 4, 1982, in Alexandria, VA. A year later, Gene retired from the Army and he and Ginger moved to Monterey County where she worked for the Department of Defense (DMDC) and Gene was VP for a multi-level business. He later owned and operated Pet Paradise in Monterey for several years and subsequently had a Farmers Insurance business in Monterey and Seaside.

Gene was proud to have his father, father-in-law and DeMoley Chapter Dad present at his initiation into Masonry in 1992 at Mt. Oso Lodge in Tracy (his father's lodge). He was raised to Master Mason in Carmel Lodge later that year and Masonry became a large part of his life. He went on to serve Carmel Lodge as Master in 1996 and again in 1997 and wore with pride the Hiram Award presented to him by his lodge in 1999. Greatly moved during a half-time presentation by the Shriners' Hospital at an East-West football game, Gene was proud to become a Shriner. He entertained thousands as 'Lil Barney' the clown in many city parades, Kids Fests, Cancer Survivor Days and private parties. One of his favorite activities as a Shriner was transporting children and their parents to and from medical appointments at the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento. For the 19 trips he made in 2012, he was awarded the Shriner of the Year award by the Monterey County Shrine Club, an honor of which he was very proud. He was appointed by Grand Lodge as Ambassador to Fraternal Support Services in 2005 and was a member of the Public Schools Advisory Council. He served as Inspector of the 357th Masonic District from 2005 until his stroke. He was a member of the Knight's Commander Court of Honor, a 32nd degree Mason of the Scottish Rite in San Jose. As a member of the National Sojourners and Heroes of 76, he enjoyed participating in flag presentations. Additionally, Gene was active with the Order of the Eastern Star. As a Past Patron of Carmel Chapter, he served Grand Chapter on many committees and enjoyed singing with the Grand Choir.

Gene's Christian faith was always an important part of his life. While at West Point he was a Sunday school teacher to children attending the post church and continued to teach at subsequent assignments and after retirement. While in Korea, he especially enjoyed teaching an English language Sunday school class for college students and working with Billy Kim, a Korean evangelist. One of his favorite experiences with Mr. Kim was the hosting of Billy Graham in 1973. Since 1997, Gene was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Salinas where he sang in the choir, served on numerous committees and worked in the Neighborhood Program, a program assisting the homeless. Along with his Christian faith was a love of Christian music. He sang in choirs throughout his life, including the Cadet Choir at West Point, and loved the friends he made through his music.

In addition to his Christian and Masonic activities, Gene was on the Board for Goodwill Industries of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties from 2005 thru 2012, serving as its Chairman in 2011. He was a Past President of Rotary in Seaside and served on the 2011 Civil Grand Jury in Monterey County.

Gene is survived by his wife, Ginger; sons, Byron (Dana) Bassett of Richburg, SC, David (Jolanthe) Bassett of Rochester Hills, MI; daughters, Becky (Eric) Robinson of Lambertville, MI and Susan Warner of Florida; brothers, Don (Sandy) Bassett of Auburn and Bill Sperry of Parma, ID; and sisters, Linda (Bill) Smith of Tracy, and Gay Sperry of Riverbank; and his mother, Margaret Bassett of Tracy. He is also survived by eight granddaughters as well as eight nieces and nephews. In talking of Gene with his widow, friends often reference him as a gentle man with a big smile. He is greatly missed by his family and friends but we all know he is 'singing with the angels' now.

A Memorial service will be held Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 2:00 p.m., at First United Methodist Church, 404 Lincoln Ave., Salinas, CA 93901.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Northern CA, 2425 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento CA 95817, or to the First United Methodist Church, 404 Lincoln St., Salinas CA 93901.

Please visit to sign Gene's guest book and leave messages for his family.

Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home.

Funeral Home

Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 424-0311

Published in The Salinas Californian from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6, 2014