Gary RiesterJune 13, 2017 ~ June 7, 2017
Major(Ret) Gary Robert Riester, 73, of Ozark, Alabama, passed away at 1210 on the morning of 7 June 2017 at West Florida Hospital. Gary was born on 8 February 1944 in Huntingburg, IN, to Ralph and Louise Riester (Gerkin). He had five older sisters whom he adored: Martha, Kay, Mertz, Shirley, and Jannette.
He enlisted in the US Army on 7 October 1966 and was commissioned as an Artillery Officer on 14 August 1967, but his love for aviation led him to US Army Flight Training where he qualified in the CH-47A Chinook. Gary rode this machine into combat in South Vietnam from 1968-1969 with the 243rd Assault Support Helicopter Company, “Freighttrain” where he served as a pilot and maintenance officer. He flew more than 240 combat hours and earned numerous awards and commendations including the Bronze Star, 10 Air Medals, and two Army Commendation Medals including one with “V” device. Following his service in Vietnam, in 1970, he met and married his beloved wife, Mary Lou Swinehart. He continued to fly CH-47s and UH-1s until he separated from the Army in 1978 and started working as an engineer at Bell Helicopter.
Gary was an extremely skilled aviator with exceptional mechanical prowess. He was a man of infinite jest and an immense love for music. He was a devout Christian, a cherished husband, and a loving father who would sacrifice anything for his family. He is, and will forever be, an American Hero.
He is preceded in death by his parents Ralph and Louise, and sisters Janette and Shirley. He is survived by his wife, Mary Lou, and his children, Missy, Gerad, Justin and Robbin.
Visitation will be from 5pm to 7pm on 2 July at Emerald Coast Funeral Home located at 161 Racetrack, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
Interment will be at 10am on 3 July at Barrancas National Cemetery, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL.