Before Gary David Hagen departed after seventy-five years on this Earth on October 7, 2021, his daughter tousled his hair to make sure he was presentable before joining his many loved ones waiting patiently for him in heaven at Camp Woopie Doo. Gary lived by the mantra, “better to look good than to feel good”, and he thanked god every day that his wife of over 50 years, Ellen Marie Hagen (McKeon), his four children, Mary Kathleen Hagen-Belli, Gary David Hagen II, Cynthia Lucia Somma, Christopher Paul Hagen, and his twelve grandchildren, Meghan, Ellen, Christopher, Gary, Steven, Quinn, Gabriel, Mark, Audrey, Maggie, Emily, and Noah, were so good looking.
Gary’s life began on March 19, 1946. He was born to Oscar and Ingeborg Hagen (Sonderstrom) and grew up alongside his two brothers and three sisters near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY. By all accounts, his family did not have an abundance of money, but from the beginning he had an abundance of love for others and grit. After Gary spent the best three years of his life in the fourth grade, he went on to graduate from the school of hard knocks. From a young age he learned to hustle on the streets with his friends singing doo-wop on corners and polishing shoes. By his mid-twenties, Gary had started his own plumbing business which he owned for more than thirty years. Over the years, Gary built a loyal client base by making genuine connections with people and consistently demonstrating integrity in his business practices. When his sons were old enough, they began working alongside him learning the trade and how to run a business. Using the skills they had learned from him, they both eventually went on to start their own businesses.
Gary met his wife, Ellen, when he was twenty-four. When he gave his number to Ellen his friends bet that she would not call, but Ellen and Gary both felt an instant spark and that spark ignited a love that has only grown over time. A year after they met, Ellen and Gary were married and began to raise their children together in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn. On the weekends, Gary would take his children to fly kites on Shore Road, hang out on the beach, or go ice skating and would let Ellen get her beauty rest in at home. Every summer, no matter how poor they were, Gary and Ellen would take their children to upstate to spend the days swimming in Lake George and nights singing around the campfire. Gary made sure to teach his children many lessons over the years, such as the essentiality of breakfast, how to run the table, but most importantly how to be a good husband and father.
His children went on to carry those lessons with them in their lives and passed them on to his grandchildren. Gary never forgot to tell his grandchildren exactly where their good looks came from, and how proud he was of them and their accomplishments. Whenever they would come to visit him and Ellen at their home in Catskill, NY, he would fill their stomachs with his famous mac and cheese, krumkake, and lobscouse; and every year on their birthdays, Ellen would call the grandchildren and Gary would jump in and start singing happy birthday to them with his signature doo-wop twist.
Gary will be deeply missed by anyone that knew him. Throughout his life his propensity to do more for others than himself, value relationships more than material goods, and balance kindness with (sometimes brutal) honesty has paid dividends in friendship and love.
Relatives and friends may call 2-6PM Monday at Traver & McCurry Funeral Home, 234 Jefferson Heights, Catskill. Funeral services will be held 11 AM Tuesday at the funeral home. Interment will be at the Town of Catskill Cemetery.