Campus Security Supervisor Gary Kriesen, who served Oberlin College for 37 years and is beloved by generations of students, staff, and faculty, died September 28, 2015, at the age of 62 surrounded by his family at the Cleveland Clinic.
Gary was born August 20, 1953, in Lorain, Ohio, to the late Merle and Janet (née Metler) Kriesen. He grew up in the Lorain/Amherst area and was a 1972 graduate of Marion L. Steele High School. He later moved to Wellington.
Gary was baptized along with members of his family at the Faith Baptist Church in Amherst. He was an active member of the First Baptist Church in Wellington and its men’s breakfast and Bible study group, Iron Men. Gary was a talented golfer and avid sports fan, who enjoyed watching University of Michigan and Cleveland Browns games. Most of all, he cherished time spent with his children and his grandchildren.
Gary was a Red Cross certified CPR instructor and a volunteer with the Wellington Auxiliary Police Department. He was awarded the Star of Life, an American Ambulance Association award given in recognition of EMS professionals who have shown special dedication to patient care and leadership.
Gary served with the Avon Police Department before beginning his service with the Office of Safety and Security in 1979. Know by many as Deputy Dawg, Gary’s most recent position was campus security supervisor.
"Gary was a legend across generations of Obies. He loved this place and its people. He was extremely dedicated to his job and to strengthening our community,” says President Marvin Krislov.
Campus and Security Officer II Bruce Wohleber, who began working at Oberlin in 1978 and served with Gary throughout his tenure at Oberlin, says Gary was “a person who would do anything for you. He’d give the shirt off his back. He loved Oberlin and lived to work with the students. He was a kind soul to everyone, always willing to help and never straying from the task at hand.”
“I don’t remember an Oberlin College without Gary, and I have been here 28 years,” says Tina Zwegat, associate director of the Student Union. “I truly appreciated his willingness to work any extra event at which the students needed safety and security. He was always checking in at the Student Union office to see what was happening and, more often than not, had a story to share.”
Dionysus Monitor Shirley Adkins Sikora (better known as Mama ’Sco) says she met Gary when she started work at Oberlin in 1983 but knew of him in the ’60s. “Gary’s dad sold Buicks and my dad bought them from him. As dads will do, they talked about their kids,” she says. “I have always described Gary as my friend and backup. Friend because he always knew when something was bothering me and he could always make me laugh. Backup because, whenever I had a problem at the ’Sco, I knew all I had to do was call and he would be there to help.”
Gary’s absence will be notable to many at the ’Sco where, under the moniker DJ Deputy Dawg, he regularly spun country music. “The week my father died, Gary’s entire playlist was [comprised of] songs to help me cope with his loss. I will always love him for that,” Sikora says. Gary was also known to take to the dance floor. “He used to give dance lessons at the ’Sco. You’d be stunned at his ability to be so graceful,” Wohleber says.
Wohleber says he will miss Gary’s friendship, camaraderie, storytelling, and presence of mind. Sikora says she will miss his humor and sincerity. “Gary loved working at Oberlin College. He loved his job, the students, and the adults,” she says.
Gary is survived by his loving wife of 32 years, Debra (née Bouch); children Jason (Michelle) Coward of Oberlin, Jamie Sikora of Wellington, and Michael (Amanda) Kriesen of Avon Lake; grandchildren Megan, Sean, Rachel, Brianna, Morgan, Roman, Kendra, and McKenzie; nephew Ryan (Marcie) Wheatley and their children Lauren, Gwendolyn, and Logan; and trusty canine companion, Bandit. He was preceded in death by his brother Jan Kriesen, sister Patricia Wheatley, and nephew Sean Wheatley.
Friends and family will be received from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, at Norton-Eastman Funeral Home, 370 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Services will be held at the same location beginning at 11 a.m. Friday, October 2. Reverend Thomas Alexander, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Wellington, will officiate. Burial will take place at Greenwood Cemetery.
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