Gary Eldon Engell
Gary Eldon Engell was born on February 18, 1934 in Fairfield/Suisun, CA to parents Carl and Anna Engell. Gary's father Carl worked as a clerk for the local Southern Pacific Railroad while his mother Anna worked as a telephone operator in San Francisco.
Gary was the younger sibling to his sister Arlene Reynolds and older brother Alan Engell.
Gary graduated from Armijo High School and Napa Junior College. He also played on the basketball team, and in 1951, travelled to Redding to play rival Shasta College, spending the night at the Hotel Redding across from the Cascade Theatre on Market Street.
Gary next attended San Jose State University and became a reporter on The Spartan Daily working up to Editor in his senior year.
Gary's talents attracted the attention of his former Journalism Instructor Don Westover who offered him a job working in his Vallejo camera store. Gary sold so many cameras that soon Westover offered him stock in the company in lieu of paying him sales commissions.
Gary traveled between several of Westover's small chain of camera stores to train staff and implement proper store operations and procedures.
After Westover learned from a newspaper article how many telephone lines were being installed in Shasta County, Gary was sent to Redding to investigate if this community would be a good place to start his next camera store.
Gary found an empty storefront (formerly Hoss' Meat Market) at 1636 Yuba Street (now the Post Office Saloon) to open the next camera store in the chain called Central Camera on August 22, 1957.
To cut personal expenses, Gary shared an apartment with Record Searchlight Photographer Jim Vestal as roommates.
With business expenditures mounting and bankruptcy on the horizon, Westover gave Gary this newly opened store in Redding, CA in lieu of any further compensation on past camera sales.
Gary became the fifth entrant into Redding's camera store marketplace, and was the final camera store to survive in Shasta County.
Six months into operation, a man walked into Gary's camera store, and told him he was going to sue him if he continued to use his camera store's name as the name of his store, so Gary changed the name of the store to Cameracade.
After completing camera sales during the day, Gary would take his bank deposits to an attractive bank teller by the name of Bette Smith who worked at Crocker National Bank.
One of Gary's loyal customers was a local doctor by the name of Dr. Goode who was so impressed by the young salesman that he invited Gary to attend his Christmas party in December 1957. Dr. Goode's wife had also extended an invitation to Bette Smith to introduce the couple to one another.
Although the couple had already met, Gary and Bette soon started dating.
Bette fondly remembered putting a note in her father's sack lunch informing him that she and Gary were eloping to Reno, NV to get married.
Soon after getting married, Gary and Bette welcomed their daughter Leslie into their family on January 15, 1959, soon followed by Christopher and Jeffery in the early 1960s.
In March 1964, Gary moved his camera store over to Tehama Street and renamed the business Crown Camera.
Gary continued to work on the sales floor selling camera and photographic supplies until May 1990 when he hired Frank Tona to manage his daily business operations.
It was about this time that Robert Edkin, Redding Record Searchlight Editor, nominated and inducted Gary as a member of Redding Rotary.
Gary aspired to become Redding Rotary's President only after four years of membership. He was proud to nominate Karen Bennett to succeed him as Redding Rotary's first woman president.
Gary continued to operate Crown Camera for 62 years until August 2019 when he publicly announced he was closing business operations. With Gary's blessing, his son Jeff and Photolab Manager Theresa Wood have restructured the former Crown Camera business into Crown Photo & Video featuring Theresa's Photo Services.
Gary is survived by his sister Arlene Reynolds of Napa, CA, sons Christopher (Linda) of Chicago, IL, Jeff of Palo Cedro, CA, and His longtime companion Nettie Bloom and the Bloom family. His daughter Leslie died in March 1996, and his wife Bette died in December 1998.
In lieu of flowers, the Engell family suggests making a contribution to the Haven Humane Society.
Gary's Memorial will be held at Allen and Dahl's Funeral Home in Palo Cedro on November 23rd at 3 pm a Celebration of Life will follow at the Riverview Country Club on Bechelli Lane.
Published in Redding Record Searchlight from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17, 2019.