Gary James Qualmann
Gary Qualmann, 67, of Viola, passed away Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at home.
He was born Dec. 28, 1954, to Margaret and Carl Qualmann in Troy, Mich. As a child he was an altar boy at the St. Thomas More Church, in Troy, Mich. Gary grew up near Detroit, and loved spending his summers at Grand Haven Michigan with his extended family on Lake Michigan. He went to Northern Michigan University and got a degree in conservation in the 1970s.
He came out west in 1979 and settled in St. Maries. He worked for the State of Idaho and the U.S. Forest Service on the St. Joe, at Red Ives and Clarkia, at first surveying. Gary found his passion in forest fire fighting, wildland fire. He was a ground pounder because he chose to be, not for lack of offers of promotion, staying on the fire line for most of his 25 year career. He was a crew boss, and later became a squad boss on the St. Joe Hot Shot fire crew. He fought fire doing many jobs, from Northern Canada to the Mexican Border. Washington to Tennessee. He also worked in fisheries, timber management, and other outdoor work during those 25 years. He was a delight to work with, so much that he had job offers pretty much wherever he went.
Gary loved being a fire spotter from airplanes doing air patrol after he could no longer do hot shot work. He was the consummate fireman. Strong, but always calm. Compassionate, but very hard working. A wry sense of humor we all loved. Around 1999 he started work at his other lifelong passion, hockey. He helped build the Palouse Ice Rink, bending rebar, starting from the ground up. To the customers, he was the face of the ice rink for years.
Although he had no children of his own, he had stepchildren from his first marriage to Marie Duke in 1990, and helped raise and love them like they were his own. They divorced in 1993. He loved kids and wherever he went he’d always gravitate towards the children. He loved his time volunteering at the Potlatch Elementary School. He met his second wife Suzanne Lay, working at the Palouse Ranger District doing stream improvement work. He was the love of her life. They married in 2000. Their first date was kayaking the St. Joe River, a pastime they shared for life. He loved music, hockey, skiing, volleyball, softball, bird watching and everything outdoors. He devoured books.
He is survived by his mother Marge Qualmann; wife, Suzanne Qualmann; his ex-wife Marie (Duke) Dymkoski; his stepdaughters Jennifer Erickson (Jesse) and Kristin Compton (Chuck); his stepgrandchildren, Savannah and Sabrina Erickson, Grant Compton; and his sisters Lori (Phil) Brown, Jill (Gary) Peck and their children Alex and Ryan Brown and Emma and Cameron Peck and his beloved brother Jeff Qualmann, and numerous favorite cousins.
Gary was an amazing man. He gave of his time, and would have given you the shirt off his back. He made people smile wherever he went, especially children. He was the most patient gentle man you would ever meet. We’ll miss you Mr. Q!
Kramer Funeral Home is in charge of burial, which will take place 11 a.m. Feb. 26 at Viola Cemetery. Visit kramercares.com to leave a tribute and for information. A celebration of life will be at 11 a.m. April 2 at the Nazarene Church of Princeton with a potluck meal to follow at the church. All are welcome to attend either ceremony. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Palouse Ice Rink (palouseicerink.com) or the Potlatch Ambulance.
Kramer Funeral Home of Palouse, Washington is caring for the family. Online condolences may be left at www.kramercares.com
Potlatch Ambulance Fund
PO Box 63, Potlatch ID 83855
PALOUSE ICE RINK
LATAH COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS, MOSCOW ID 83843