Court Cardinal: Hero’s death won’t diminish memories of his great appetite for life |

Court Cardinal: Hero’s death won’t diminish memories of his great appetite for life

Court Cardinal

It is my honor to tell you about a truly remarkable man who lived in our Northern Nevada community. Sometimes in life, if you are lucky, you will find a friendship that transcends all others; for me that friendship was with Gary Sorge, my best friend for over a quarter of a century.

We began our friendship as freshmen at UNR and have remained best friends ever since. Gary was a father, husband, friend and an admired co-worker and boss by many, but more than anything else he was a hero.

On June 29, after saving his son’s life from dangerous riptides in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Gary went back to save the child of a stranger. The child lived, but Gary did not. This selfless act puts Gary near the top of the heroes list.

Gov. Jim Gibbons issued a proclamation announcing June 29, 2010, a day in honor of Gary Sorge. One of Gary’s friends wrote, “A hero acts when he is not required to do so, and not for the glory, or in the fear of injury or death; they simply rise to the occasion because it is the right thing to do!” Soldiers, police officers and firefighters are examples of heroes for all of us, but as the friend pointed out, it is their job; it wasn’t Gary’s.

It wasn’t just the heroic act of saving those children’s lives that brought about this honor from the governor, but the way Gary lived his life. He lived a full and wonderful life. He had a beautiful happy marriage, three wonderful sons, more friends than you could count, and respect through the medical community that resonated profoundly.

Gary moved to Reno to attend UNR after graduating from Clark High School in Las Vegas. He loved the outdoor activity opportunities that Northern Nevada provides. He took every opportunity he could to play tennis and racquetball, race cars, climb mountains, ski, mountain bike, camp, kayak, hike and vacation in exotic locations.

He achieved numerous ascents through the Sierra Nevada as well as summiting the highest peaks in the Lower 48. Gary earned his bachelor’s degree from UNR in political science and in the middle of his 21 years with Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, in both the clinical and administrative fields, found time to return to UNR and obtain his master’s in business administration. Most recently, Gary had become the practice administrator for Digestive Health Associates in Reno.

Gary had an unfailing optimism about him. You would always see Gary with a smile on his face or finding the silver lining in difficult situations. In fact, his favorite quote was “Within every adversity is an equal or greater opportunity,” by Napoleon Hill. That’s how Gary lived his life.

Gary would often come down to Casino Fandango and help me with test menus for winemaker dinners or give me some tidbit of input for my column “Perfect Pairings,” and why not, my first trip to Napa Valley, Calif., was with Gary when we were just 21 years old. We shared 26 years of “firsts” and experiences together, including many items listed from Gary’s hobbies above. I cannot imagine how my life will be affected without my best friend.

As always, we move forward, but I imagine that the racing victories will not be quite as sweet, the wine will not taste quite as good and the adventures will not be quite as rewarding.

We know that time helps to heal grief, but the memories of a loved one or true friend will never go away. We will have those memories with us for the rest of our lives. When you lose someone, make sure to take the time to tell stories about them; it helps to keep the wonderful memories you have of them alive and fresh within your minds and hearts. I know I’ll be sharing great stories about Gary for the rest of my life.

So one last time, I raise my glass of bold, tannic and complex red wine to you, Gary, and toast the best friend I ever had and a true hero. Cheers.

• Court Cardinal is vice president and general manager of Casino Fandango and a regular wine columnist for the Nevada Appeal.