Gary Upshaw

Who was Gary Alan Upshaw?

February 2, 1953-May 13, 2017

By Jane Yates

Gary was born February 2, 1953, in Havre, MT, to Joseph and Gloria Upshaw of nearby Chinook, MT. He was the second of three boys; they grew up in the Montana towns of Chinook, Bozeman and Helena.

The family moved to Bozeman in 1961, where Gary attended middle and junior high school. Gary graduated from Helena High School in 1971 with honors. He participated in many school activities and lettered as a football and track and field athlete. Gary also learned clarinet, was a Cub Scout and was an accomplished skier. In high school he played center on the football team and joined the Junior Ski Patrol.

Gary graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical engineering. After receiving a Masters Degree from MSU in 1977, Gary joined the Boeing Company in Seattle where he enjoyed a distinguished thirty-seven year career.

Gary would and could claim to be a Rocket Scientist during his career at Boeing. Actually, he was an engineer, which is different from a scientist, but he thought it was more fun to call himself a Rocket Scientist, because for twenty years of his career with Boeing, he worked with Sealaunch, a subsidiary of the Boeing Company.

Sealaunch was a multinational collaboration with Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. The company launched commercial payloads on specialized rockets, from a former mobile/floating oil drilling rig renamed “Odyssey”. The approach Sealaunch used was to assemble the rocket launcher in Long Beach, CA, then the assembled aircraft was positioned on top of the self-propelled Odyssey and moved to the equatorial Pacific Ocean for launch. The command ship “Sea Launch Commander” was relatively nearby, servicing as the tracking and command center. Gary worked on the thermal capability of the payloads, to assure they would not get damaged by the heat during the launch trajectory.

Gary was very outgoing, with a great sense of humor, and always unfailingly positive and resilient. He always had a desire to be productive, if he heard someone say “somebody should” there was a chance he was the one to step in and do it himself.

Gary remained an avid skier from his early days in Montana. He was devoted to skiing with his Thursday night racing team friends, in Snoqualmie, WA. He coined their nickname, the “No-Wedgies”. They always celebrated post skiing, not because they had won, but because they were together. That represented Gary’s approach to life.

Gary was a wonderful husband and was always close and supportive to his parents and family. He lived life to the fullest, even in the face of many challenges.

Throughout his valiant eight-year battle with colorectal cancer, he exemplified undaunted courage, optimism, a great wit, creativity, humor, and he relied on his Faith in God.

He is remembered by his family, friends and medical team at Swedish Hospital in Seattle as an inspiring soul. Gary demonstrated to all who knew him, how to embrace the goodness of life, and to treasure each and every moment.

Gary would be very honored to know that a student from Helena will be receiving a scholarship in his memory.