Dr. Gary Hargis, a 42-year member of ASDA, passed away on November 9. He will be remembered by ASDA staff for his unsolicited words of encouragement and optimism during conferences, and for his loyalty to the association. Renowned Arkansas writer Ernie Dumas, a family friend of the Hargises, wrote the following obituary.
“Dr. Garry Lawrence Hargis, a dentist with a burning social conscience, died Saturday. He was 65.
“Garry was born on January 31, 1948, to Peter Lawrence and Mary Katherine Horne Hargis in DeQueen. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and then a DDS from the University of Tennessee at Memphis. He married the love of his life, Alison Correll, and after dental school, they moved to Little Rock to set up a solo dentistry practice. She became an English teacher at Little Rock Central High School.
“Although born and reared in DeQueen, Dr. Hargis set up practice in Little Rock, primarily to be near a stadium where he could see his beloved Arkansas Razorbacks play football. He was a fanatical fan of the Razorbacks, an object of loyalty that was exceeded later in life only by his children, of whom he was truly proud, and the Democratic Party.
“Garry’s lifelong passion was helping children. The Hargises frequently took in kids who were temporarily homeless and helped them get to college. Eventually, Garry gave up his private dental practice in southwest Little Rock and contracted with an agency to provide dental care for children. During the last two years of his life, the object of Garry’s passion was his granddaughter, Lillie Kate. Although the family encouraged Lillie to call her grandfather “Grumpy,” a name that reflected his gruff bravado, she chose “Boppy,” and he quickly became her favorite bug and frog catcher.
“Though reared in a conservative community and family, he became somewhat radicalized by encounters with racism and other forms of intolerance. After moving his family to a home in Hillcrest, which meant he also could walk to War Memorial Stadium for Razorback games, Garry became increasingly intolerant of intolerance, often loudly venting his displeasure at the television set or the morning paper and sporting bumper stickers on his car.
“Some 15 years ago, he began creating funny slogans—sometimes feminist, sometimes ridiculing politicians and movements he disliked—and printing them on T-shirts. People collected the T-shirts but rarely wore them, at least in public, but Dr. Hargis wore them unabashedly, if he was going out to games or shopping malls. He hoped people would stop and ask about them or take umbrage at them.
“He was an incredibly hard worker; even on relaxing beach vacations he spent all his spare moments not in the water but repairing things around the house the family rented. Around his Hillcrest home, Garry filled every space with flowers and vegetables, raised chickens in his backyard and supplied friends and strangers with homegrown produce. When he wasn’t gardening or working, Garry often took his family trout fishing on the White and Little Red Rivers.
“Dad built, demolished, painted, cleaned, farmed, raised and worked his entire life, and he loved it,” his son said. “He worked his way through dental school and started his own practice. He had successes and failures all his life but he worked at it hard every single day.”
“Survivors are his wife; a daughter, Katheryn Blair Hargis, and granddaughter, Lillie Katheryn, of Little Rock; and a son, Peter George Hargis of Albuquerque.
“Visitation will be at 10 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall at Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, followed by a Celebration Service at 11 on Saturday, November 16, 2013. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Hargis Dental Health Fund for Children at the Arkansas State Dental Association, 7480 Hwy 107, Sherwood, Arkansas 72120. Arrangements by Ruebel Funeral Home, www.ruebelfuneralhome.com.”