Gary Dornbach was a passionate, loving man, who had an amazing testimony and loved to share his life story with everyone he met. Whether it was winning a promotion with the sales company he worked with or winning someone to the Lord Jesus Christ, he loved to set a goal and put everything he had been given into reaching that goal. He was a loving husband, devoted father and grandfather, faithful follower of Jesus, and a friend to many. Hundreds would attest to the amazing influence and direction that Gary provided by teaching they and their families the truths found in the Word of God. However, Gary didn’t always live life according to the Word of God, and this is the testimony he always liked to share with people.
As America confronted the aftermath of World War II during the 1950s, Eugene Dornbach was hard at work as an industrial salesman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After putting in a full day, he returned home to his beloved wife, Lois (Owens), and their two sons, Edward and Scott. On September 23, 1954, Eugene and Lois were blessed with the birth of their third son, who they named Gary Robert. He and his brothers were later joined by their youngest brother, Patrick, who completed the Dornbach household.
Gary spent his early childhood living around 25th and Galena Streets in Milwaukee, but later moved with his family to Wauwatosa, where he spent the majority of his growing up years. Gary was a spunky, fun loving kid with a very funny side. He began collecting things at a young age, including key rings and bumper stickers. To bolster his collection, Gary called random companies to solicit donations, which was met with great success – their living room was filled to the brim with contributions. The Dornbachs made many wonderful memories together on yearly family vacations to exciting places throughout the U.S. Gary especially loved the west, and later enjoyed decorating a room in his house with western décor.
School was not one of Gary’s favorite places to be, though he did enjoy the social interaction with his friends. Gary had an outgoing personality and loved to talk, which started all the way back in kindergarten when his teacher told his parents that “Gary monopolized show and tell.” By the time he was in Wauwatosa East High School, his dad would drop him off at the front door, and Gary headed straight for the back exit. Unfortunately, Gary’s search for a good time just led him into trouble. He began selling drugs in school and was eventually expelled. He later went back and earned his GED.
After high school, Gary’s life spiraled into a serious addiction to drugs and the lifestyle that came along with it. During this point of his life, there were not many good things that were taking place as he was arrested for crimes that he began committing as he tried coming up with money to repay drug dealers. This sounds bleak, but Gary actually carried around his mug shots in his Bible to the day he died. He would pull out those mug shots, show them to any stranger, and begin sharing with them about the life God delivered him out of.
Before Gary was delivered from this life of drugs and addiction, he found work in various restaurants and worked his way up to managerial positions. For a while, Gary was Assistant Manager at the Ground Round, and as such, he hired a young lady named Lynn Wieberg to be the restaurant hostess. Lynn was shy and quiet, completely opposite of Gary, so he tried to help her be more outgoing. At first, Gary and Lynn would get under one another’s skin because they were so opposite, but like the saying goes, “opposites attract.” The two started seeing each other outside of work, and a romance soon blossomed between them. It wasn’t long before Lynn moved in with Gary and they eventually married on May 24, 1980, at the Greendale Community Church. Gary was still into drugs, but he now had his wife Lynn, and their daughter Pam to take care of. Shortly after saying “I do,” their family of three grew to include another wonderful bundle of joy with the birth of their son, Gary II, in September of 1980.
As Gary continued trying to support his drug habit, he also continued to get himself deeper into trouble with drug dealers and legal officials alike. It was about 1985 when Gary was managing a Japanese steakhouse in Milwaukee and he needed a significant amount of money to pay for some drugs that he had already used. He was about to take money from the restaurant he managed when he pulled out a picture of his 4-year-old son and he started to cry. Gary realized he didn’t even know his own children. He said a prayer that night and said, “God, if you’re real. You have to help me.” That invitation was all the Lord needed. Gary did not take any money from the restaurant that night, and God began to deal with him. This began Gary’s journey toward God.
Gary was in a drug rehabilitation program, but nobody really expected much to happen here. He had already been in programs like this five or six times. This time, however, there was a woman who was in the program with Gary, and she began repeatedly inviting Gary to attend a Bible Study, which he turned down. Well, she kept inviting, and after about six or seven invitations, Gary finally agreed to come. He would later say that he just said yes to her invitation so she would stop bothering him. When he finally went to that Bible study taught by Anthony Tamel, he felt the presence of God so strongly that he was holding back tears throughout the lesson. It was not long after that study that Gary repented of all of his sins, he saw in the Bible that he needed to have those sins washed away by being baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, and God filled Gary with the Holy Ghost.
Gary was not just content to share his testimony, love God, be a good father, and go to church. He wanted to tell everyone he could about the truths he saw so clearly in the Word of God. So, around 1987, Anthony Tamel encouraged Gary to begin teaching his own Bible studies. Gary not only began doing that, he actually wrote a number of different Bible studies and also recorded a 12-week study on DVD.
Gary had always done everything with all his heart and he passionately pursued each goal he put his mind to. Once he began teaching Bible studies that never changed. Gary’s radiant and positive personality allowed him to connect with people from all walks of life, and he ended up seeing more than 400 people baptized in Jesus’ Name and filled with the Holy Ghost over his 20+ years of ministry. He never stopped teaching. He was in the middle of a Bible study to the very day he passed. His wife Lynn said “Gary the salesman became a salesman of God.”
After God changed Gary’s life, Gary didn’t just become effective at loving strangers, he also loved his family with all of his heart. He was patient, caring and generous with his time, and always encouraged his children in their many endeavors. Gary was quite competitive by nature, which often came out when playing games with his kids. They would often play board games like “Sorry,” “Aggravation,” or “Monopoly” for favors (usually something like washing the dishes for one another when it was their night for chores). Gary usually won because if he didn’t, he would keep playing until he did.
Like his father, Eugene, Gary went into sales and also loved taking his family on vacations. Family vacations included a surprise trip to Disney World and a tour of London that Gary won at work. Gary won several sales promotions, trips, money, and a boat throughout his many years selling food and chemicals. Gary coupled his competitive nature and drive with a wonderful and optimistic personality that drew people in, and that made him successful both in convincing vendors to buy food and in unbelievers to be open to the Almighty God that changed his life.
Since the mid 1990s, Gary battled physical ailments, including back problems, which led to him having surgery in 1996. After two additional surgeries, the last one being in November 2009, his back pain was finally eliminated when he had a fusion in his back. Tragically, a year later, on November 30, 2010, Gary was in a serious car accident and suffered multiple traumatic injuries. After being hospitalized for 5 weeks at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa, Gary was transferred to Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation Center on December 31, 2010. However, a few days later, he was found unconscious and unresponsive and quickly transported to St. Luke’s Medical Center. It was concluded that Gary suffered a pulmonary embolism and, unfortunately, he passed away on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, at the age of 56.
Beloved husband of Lynn Dornbach (nee Wieberg). Loving father of Pam (Rahl) Douglass and Gary II (Jaqueline) Dornbach. Loving grandpa of Kiera. Dear brother of Ed (Sue) Dornbach, Scott (Diane) Dornbach. Preceded in death by his parents, Eugene and Lois (nee Owens) Dornbach, and brother, Patrick Dornbach. Dear son-in-law of Elaine Wieberg. Further survived by other relatives and friends.
Visitation will be on Monday, January 10, 2011, at Parkway Apostolic Church, 10940 S. Nicholson Road, Oak Creek, WI 53154, from 4: 00 until 6:45 p.m. followed by the Funeral Service at 7:00 p.m. Private interment at Woodlawn Cemetery Milwaukee, WI. Please visit Gary’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may share a memory with his family or sign his online guest book. Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Niemann/Suminski (414-744-5156).