On July 6, 2017, Tacoma lost a true local professional music icon.
Gary Aleshire was born July 14, 1934 to Warren and Royetta Aleshire. Growing up in South Tacoma, Gary attended Lincoln High School where his love for music and passion for entertainment was launched. Well-known for his talent for playing many instruments, he was exceptionally gifted with the trombone. Gary never missed opportunities to find audiences to entertain and amuse – including resetting the Lincoln clock tower time to positioning the high-flying flag to a unique level to draw attention from passing neighbors. Many other pranks were guised by Gary and his classmates during their tenure.
Completing his education, Gary was hired to be the first Curtis Junior and Senior High Schools’ band instructor (1957-1964). Gary taught both band and choir and established many firsts while teaching. Gary held true to a promise asked by George Curtis and formed the first marching band to play and represent Curtis High School in the Daffodil parade. Gary authored and produced both the Curtis fight song and school pride song. He also organized the first stage (jazz) band for the “Curtis Capers” – a school-wide musical scelebration. He organized and directed the first Curtis High School musical (“Bye-Bye Birdie”). Finally, yet not inclusive, Gary brought the Curtis High School band to perform in British Columbia and received many “superior” ratings. When asked earlier this year what his biggest professional regret would be, he responded: “Leaving Curtis High School.”
Gary was married to Donna (Gordon) Aleshire for 17 years. He was the father to Lorree Frederick, Linda Rachlin, Gary (Chip) Jr., and Gordon (Gordy). Gary would remarry to Evelyn (Croyle) and stayed devoted until her passing in March 2017. He also had two step-children and 13 grandchildren. Gary loved fishing and meeting up with his many peers and friends at the Pine Cone Café to share stories and memories. Seldom would there be a missed opportunity for Gary to offer a joke or add a smile to any person who happened across his daily activities.
Gary’s later professional years included serving as a Business Agent, and later President for Musician’s Union Local. #117 (1964-1978). During his tenure, Gary assured that professional musicians received the compensation and working conditions across the many clubs and venues in Pierce County. On more than one occasion, Gary removed a band from their “gig” to uphold the values and expectations of the music profession.
Gary completed his work by serving as the Head Finance Director for the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society from 1978-1994. He had a great love for animals, especially his beloved cat Annie.
Completing Gary’s professional music passion story, he would assemble various Puget sound talent and travel to Sacramento, Victoria BC, Olympia, Ocean Shores or any venue to perform at jazz festivals (1991-2006). It was common for Gary or his ensembles to receive accolades as best band and even being invited to perform with the Lawrence Welk All Star band. Many of the later performing years, Gary proudly supported Lance Buller as he headlined the jazz festivals. Lastly, Gary enjoyed performing trombone in the orchestra for many productions at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Gary co-founded one of Tacoma’s shining big band music ensembles. The Swing Reunion Orchestra, under the direction of Don Miller, continues to perform live the last Monday of each month at VFW Hall 36th, Portland Avenue -Tacoma. Other notable bands or combos that Gary formed or proudly participated with included Destiny City Jazz Band, The Traffic Jammers, The Playboys, The Elks #174 Band, The Afifi Shriners Band and the Western Washington Fair Band
A celebration of life will be held for Gary Aleshire at the Fircrest Golf Club on Aug. 13, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. Guests are welcome and musicians encouraged bringing their instruments and sitting in an ongoing live jam session. An “open mic” will be offered for individuals to share stories and memories.
The family would like to especially thank the staff of Merrill Gardens, Melissa Rice, RN and the many other hospice nursing staff, and dear friend Mick Crosby for their exceptional care and service.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asks that you consider donating in Gary’s name to Curtis High School music department or the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society for rescued animal care.