Remembering Gary: Generous, full of heart
"Reams can be written about his outstanding law career and advocacy and philanthropy, but it is Gary's huge heart that will be remembered most." - Kathy Swann '99
Gary St. Peter ’92, a great champion and longtime supporter of Leadership Rhode Island, died earlier this month, a passenger in a tragic car accident in Palm Coast, Fla., where he resided with his wife, Jan, the center of his universe.
Gary served on the Board of Directors from 2000-2007, the last two years as board chair. Under his leadership, LRI developed into a community-based organization, expanding program offerings and strengthening its role as a partner with other organizations, says Kathy Swann ’99, appointed president/CEO of LRI in 2003.
Gary was coaxed into LRI by his longtime friend John Harpootian ’88. “I recall telling him that he would be cheating himself and all of the others he would ever interact with if he didn’t apply.”
“I knew he’d be in his element with a group of people who actually gave a shit (definitely the word Gary would have used!) about Rhode Island and the human condition,” Harpootian says.
Carol Young, a Mu classmate, remembers how Gary’s infectious personality became apparent at the retreat when everyone had to tell a story that would help remember last names. “His story was hilarious and cheeky,” she recalls. “Ten months later he was a shoo-in for class speaker.“
Gary’s candor and sense of humor enlivened all the class discussions, adds Lynne Urbani, another Mu classmate.
After graduating from the Core Program, Gary became an alumnus extraordinaire, contributing legal expertise, program ideas, financial support, and whatever else was needed to help LRI achieve its mission, says Swann. Recognizing that people were LRI’s greatest asset, he tirelessly recruited program applicants and worked to keep alumni engaged.
For his efforts on and off the board, LRI honored Gary with the 2009 David E. Sweet Leadership Award.
Anecdotes showing Gary’s enormous generosity abound.
When LRI held auction fundraisers, Swann recalls, he would step in at the end, purchase all the remaining items and donate them. A year ago, when Young asked Mu classmates to help cover a Mu II participant’s tuition, Gary responded with a gift so large it pushed the campaign over the top.
His love of people, especially those struggling, was absorbed early by his two sons, Chris and Matt, who created Operation Angel Planes about 20 years ago to transport sick children to medical centers for treatment.
“When you think of all of the people you have ever met that impressed you for their kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness and genuine caring nature, Gary would be at the top of your list,” says Harpootian.
In her remembrance, Swann summed up Gary’s life this way: “Reams can be written about his outstanding law career and advocacy and philanthropy, but it is Gary’s huge heart that will be remembered most.”