Gerry  McDade

Obituary of Gerry McDade

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Richard Gerald "Gerry" McDade of Blowing Rock passed away Monday July 11, 2022 at age 72 after complications from a 2021 heart procedure. Gerry made a significant professional contribution to his community working for twenty-five years with the North Carolina judicial system as a young adult court counselor in Caldwell County. He was born and raised in Lenoir where his family lived for generations. Combining concern for his young clients with a passionate love of the North Carolina mountains, Gerry created an outdoor adventure program that led his charges onto the highest mountains and wilderness trails of the nearby High Country. His hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and fishing trips enhanced his youngsters' self esteem, built confidence, inspired a love of nature, respect for the planet and the people we share it with. His groups were among the early volunteers helping Grandfather Mountain's late 1970s trail program reclaim deteriorating trails. It wasn't unusual for him to hear, "Mr. McDade!" on the street, and find one of "his campers" stretching out their hand. He was also instrumental in organizing the non-profit "Caldwell Friends" organization in the early 1980s that pairs mentors with young people coping with the challenges of life and school. Gerry wasn't focused on academics in high school until elders at his Presbyterian church noticed the young man's promise and regular attendance (even without other family members) and arranged a scholarship to Glade Valley School, a boarding school in Sparta. Gerry attended and played soccer at Montreat College in the early 1970s and often recalled small student dinners at the Montreat home of Billy and Ruth Graham (longtime Montreat supporters who were married in 1943 at the school's chapel, later named after Graham). At Aurora University, a private college in Chicago, Gerry earned his undergraduate degree in corrections and sociology on a soccer scholarship. Closer to home, he pursued a masters in clinical psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, returning to Lenoir to get his start as a probation officer. Gerry learned his love of the outdoors accompanying his father Earl McDade and brother Joe on visits to Blowing Rock and hikes to the waterfalls and trout pools of his beloved Wilson Creek area (where Joe earned a place in the Hall of Fame of the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians). Gerry knew that area like few other fisherman, but his career as an outdoorsman and athlete spanned the entire Southern Appalachians, and sports like cross country skiing, rock climbing, rafting and kayaking, trail running, mountain biking, and competitive road cycling, all sports he pursued even more passionately during the last 20 years of life after he retired from the court system. At one time during the late 1980s, Gerry was a top, nationally-ranked time trial road bike racer in his age group. One friend who says he "tried to keep up" recalls, "Gerry only knew one way to ride, all out." Gerry was always an educator. Besides the kids he counseled, Gerry taught cross country skiing and led group ski tours with High South Nordic Guides on Roan Mountain. He loved to share his knowledge of the mountains, outdoor skills, and wisdom gained from a life spent helping others and exploring his own philosophical inclinations. That started with his parents, whose words of wisdom he often recalled at the perfect teachable moment. Gerry was great fun to be around, but he was comfortable in his own skin and often explored the trails, streams and campsites of his mountain setting with only himself for company. He traveled the world too, places like Europe, Canada, South America, riding his motorcycle to Labrador, Alaska, Guatemala. There and in many other places, often on solo trips, he invariably made life-long friends along with epic memories. His passion for convertible sports cars, especially Alfa Romeos, included a diverse collection of other distinctive rides, among them a "convertible" Chevy Blazer. As a dedicated "gear junkie," he was known for his ritual gifting of outdoor gadgets. Tall and almost "male model" handsome, McDade had rugged good looks and a big heart. One friend called him a "gentle giant." Another said, "Gerry was courageous. But even more importantly, Gerry taught courage, independence, and self reliance. And he did it with all the love and care of an older brother." He will be much missed. He's preceded in death by his mother Louise German McDade, father Earl McDade, and brothers Earl and Joseph McDade. He's survived by nephew Phillip McDade Muma of Charlevoix, Michigan and fondly remembered by many, many friends, and girlfriend Cheryl Westbrook, whose sons Dakota and Sawyer he raised. Celebrate Gerry's Life: An informal celebration of Gerry McDade's life will be held on Wednesday July 20th, at 4 pm at Faithbridge United Methodist Church, 194 Aho Road, close to US 321 in Blowing Rock. The gathering will take place outdoors at a prayer garden near the rushing Middle Fork of the New River, with a reception and light refreshments following. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Blue Ridge Conservancy, also very close to the church and near Gerry's home. Austin and Barnes Funeral Home is serving the McDade Family.
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