Gordon Gerald Strain (1935 - 2019)

  • "To my classmate who led an adventure filled life."
    - Judge Donald Barnes
  • "As another member of the Class of '53, my memories of..."
    - Shirley SmithStallard
  • "Dear Judy, As I read Gordon's wonderful obituary, my..."
    - Mary Jo Browne

Sedalian takes fork, ends journey on Bird Day
"When I was a kid, I would hop a freight train from Sedalia to Warrensburg - but never mustered the courage to go all the way to Kansas City. In the big city, those old freight yards were so huge you could get lost or run over with all the engine switching..."
Gordon Gerald Strain, also known to some as "Jerry," recently died under Haven Hospice care in Gainesville, Florida, at the age of 84. Missourian, Marine, musician, writer, train-lover and "Seeker," Gordon, with his son, John M. Strain, by his side, succumbed to a nearly two-year battle with oral cancer and advancing dementia in the early hours of August 4, 2019.
Born in Sedalia, Missouri, January 26, 1935, to Gordon Meade Strain and Gladys Geraldine Pugh, Gordon G. Strain had been residing in Pensacola for nearly 25 years but landed in Gainesville after becoming disoriented on a return drive from Fair Hope, Alabama, where he often spent Sundays feeding the seagulls. Prior to Florida, Gordon had also lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Texas and California.
Jerry attended Washington grade school and Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia, Missouri. In high school, Jerry spoke at Lions Club meetings and played clarinet with both the Band and Orchestra. He earned his letter in music in 1952.
In 1953, as a senior, Jerry joined the Missouri National Guard. ("We sure had a lot of patches to sew on those uniforms, and we loved to show them off - all the while wondering if we would be called up to Korea!"). At 17, Jerry joined the U.S. Marines attaining "Expert Rifleman" with an M1 and "Proficiency" with both Browning automatic and .30 caliber machine guns. His greatest honor, however, was playing clarinet for the Marine Corps band including at the prestigious 1953 opening of DisneyLand. Years later, Jerry, borrowing phrasing from former President Teddy Roosevelt, poked fun at his musical participation: "What did I do in the Marines? I carried a big stick! (clarinet) and spoke softly. I was playing all the marches (when we were out on the grinder) in Glenn Miller style. The Dixieland One-Step!"
After his Honorable Discharge in 1961, Jerry, now called Gordon, began studies at Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg, Missouri, before going on to earn a journalism degree from Columbia (Missouri) in 1963, (Minor in Theology), then, pursued a Masters in Clinical Psychology at San Francisco State University in the early 1970s.
As a writer, Gordon modeled H.L. Mencken, Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain. His newspaper career began with the Beaumont Enterprise-Journal. From Beaumont, he moved to Houston, then, to New Orleans, working for six years with the Times-Picayune (while in "The Big Easy" he also followed the jazz stylings of Al Hirt, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and many others). He retired from the newspaper business after serving 15-plus years as Editor on the Oakland Tribune. Although he had given up professional journalism, split from his wife, returned to Missouri, then, later still, moved to Pensacola, Gordon continued to author dozens of lengthy letters, editorials and unpublished children's stories - all while taking several auto and Amtrak rides in between.
Baptized at 10, Gordon withdrew from organized religion in his mid-20s, dedicating himself, instead, to seeking his own answers through mythology, psychology, and other pop cultural followings. Student and critic of Testaments Old and New, all humanity, Gordon interpreted the good books as anything but divine:
The word of God does NOT mean the word BY God, by god! It simply means, ABOUT God. Of does not mean from…simply put, all religion is no more than myth, fable, and opinion.
Despite overcoming alcohol and cigarette addictions, Gordon waged life-long battles against other ailments as well: Toxic Shame, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and, finally, his two most relentless opponents: dementia and cancer. Much like his boyhood self, hopping trains back and forth to Warrensburg, ultimately, Gordon decided not to get "lost" or "run over;" he opted not to endure further illness. Gordon Strain refused medical treatments, choosing, instead, to end his earthly journey - and mortal suffering - in Gainesville, Florida, on a Sunday, his "bird day!" son John by his side, just a few hours before the dawn.
If there is some kind of afterlife, it will likely be in spiritual form - the spirit returns to the Creator, I suppose, as in Greek philosophy. I don't particularly care to exist as spirit - although, I don't pretend to know all that much about it…but, as I always say, 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it!'
Gordon G. Strain was preceded in death by his younger brother, Johnny Randall Strain, as well as by his parents, Gordon and Gladys Strain, his Uncle Wilbur Pugh, his Aunt Ellen Osbourn and others.
He is survived by his sister, Judy Lambert, as well as a nephew and niece, former spouse, Judith Lipman, step-daughter, Myra Leavitt, stepson, and his No. 1 son/admirer, John M. Strain, as well as several step-grandchildren and a step-great grandchild.
A memorial service for Gordon G. Strain will be held in San Francisco, CA, at as yet undetermined time and date. Memorial contributions may be sent to either cancer, dementia, and stroke research foundations.
Published in SedaliaDemocrat.com on Aug. 18, 2019
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