Gary Alfred Lytle was a beloved father and husband who owned Hobart Sales & Service, a kitchen supply business. He also was a gifted golfer who coached the Cardinal Newman High golf team to a state championship.
Lytle, who died March 7 at the age of 70, was a straight shooter who believed that the best way to succeed in life was to do what you said you were going to do, his sons said.
"My dad, at 6'5" with piercing blue eyes, had a smile larger than life," said his son, Steve Lytle of Santa Rosa. "He was the guy you wanted to be with; you knew through his magnetism that he was going to be the heart of every conversation."
Lytle's path wasn't easy. Born in Fortuna, he lost his father at a young age. When his mother remarried, Lytle learned his work ethic laboring in a Santa Rosa junk yard and used car shop owned by his stepfather, his sons said.
He earned a pilot's license at age 16. But two years later, his mother, stepfather and sisters died in a plane crash.
"His whole family was wiped out, other than a brother overseas in the Army," said his son, Greg Lytle of Santa Rosa. "That tragedy was really what drove his need to be successful. . . . Everyone was gone, so he started from scratch."
He found work at a gas station in Santa Rosa and, while selling a wiper blade to a customer, was offered a job as a salesman at Hobart, the commercial kitchen supplier.
On one of Lytle's first sales trips, he was sent to a meat store in Eureka to install kitchen equipment. That's where he met Julie, who was working at the checkout counter.
"My father fell immediately, instantly in love, and 3?-weeks later they eloped to Reno."
On the way there Lytle, 18, sold some kitchen equipment, and talked his boss into letting him keep the commission to pay for the marriage license and hotel.