A Tribute to Mort Gaines
A Tribute to My Brother
Mortimer Bernard Gaines
24 May 1913 - 05 June 2005
Most of you who have supported The Mono Lake Committee will remember my brother, Mort, as the father of the late David Gaines (Founder, with his wife Sally, of the Committee to Save Mono Lake) and a regular attendee at Mono Lake gatherings such as the Bucket Walk. I knew him in another role as my older brother and surrogate father.
My brother was not a celebrity nor was he someone who was well known outside of his inner circle of family, friends, and those with whom he was associated in business. The world of importance for him was his immediate family, his wife, Edith, his two children, David and Karen, and his grandchildren, Vireo, Sage and Dylan, and, of course, his original family before he married which consisted of his mother, Ruth, his kid brother, me, his sister, Grace, and our Aunt Esther. These were the people who were the focus of his life.
He was twelve years older than me and became my surrogate father after I turned nine. He was the man-in-the-house to whom I looked for guidance, help, and encouragement. He bought my first two wheel bicycle, first gasoline powered model airplane, and first electric train set. When we lived in Minnesota, he taught me how to fish, took me out on Christmas Lake and Lake Minnetonka with a bucket of minnows to catch wall-eyed pike. In the snowy Minneapolis winters, he showed me how to run and jump on my sled and slide down the hill.
He didn't write any books or screen plays nor was he a sports hero, but the values by which he lived his life were etched in my mind and he was always the model that I wanted to emulate in life. He was there for me and for everyone in our family when we needed him. When he was a traveling salesman during the Great Depression, he would take me with him on trips to San Diego. He taught me how to drive when I was only 14, two years before you could get a learner's permit in California. On those trips, he introduced me to the BLT sandwich and chocolate milkshakes.
Of course, he wasn't perfect, but he was always my Big Brother whom I idolized during my childhood and adolescence. He kept our family afloat during the Great Depression by working hard at whatever job was available for him and when he was called to do his part in World War II, he did his duty despite his personal hatred for war.
He was a member of what NBC Television News Anchor Tom Brokaw called the Great Generation. As a staff Sargent in the 30th Armored Calvary Division, he went ashore in Normandy at Omaha Beach, was among the first Americans to enter Belgium and the first to enter Germany at Aachen. I remember staying up all night at the Kaneohe Naval Air Station in Hawaii listening to the radio when the Normandy landings took place because my intuition told me my brother was there. He survived many of the major battles in France, Belgium and Germany and came home for his happiest moment when his wife, Edith, was waiting dockside for him.
I can't close this tribute to my brother without a special word about his wife, Edith. Her devotion to him during his final months of life bore witness to the love she had for him. She gave him every ounce of her loving care as his life slowly ebbed away. Mort died as he would have wanted, peacefully in his own home with wife and daughter at his side.
On June 19th 2005 Edith, Sally Gaines, Mort's Granddaughter Vireo Gaines, and my daughter, Susan Gaines, gathered where Lee Vining Creek flows into Mono Lake and paid tribute to both my brother, Mort, and his late son, David. It was fitting that this tribute once again brought Father and Son together in the spirit of the Lake they both loved so very much.
I shall miss my brother, Mort, for the rest of my life.
Member, Mono Lake Committee