June 7, 1938 – October 28, 2022
Rev. W. Gary Epler, 84, of Lititz left this earthly domain on October 28. Born at home in Florin, PA, he was the son of the late Sylvester G. Epler and Mary Lucille Braun.
After graduating from Donegal High School in 1956, where he played three sports and was featured in the junior and senior class plays, Gary joined the United States Navy. He easily passed the rigorous physical and emotional testing required for submarine school in New London, CT and was selected to serve on the U.S.S. Cusk, a missile guidance diesel submarine, for three years. As a second class sonar-man, he traveled to many places in East Asia, including Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Korea. During this time, he also traveled to Alaska from his home port of Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.
In 1962, Gary traveled to California and worked in industry for two years, before he returned to Pennsylvania and entered Elizabethtown College. On the night of graduation in August 1967, Gary became engaged to Marty, who was a teacher at Donegal High School. Together, they spent two years at Lancaster Theological Seminary and one year at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he prepared for 40 years of ministry in the United Methodist Church.
During that time, he served Emmanuel and Trinity Churches at Indiantown Gap, PA; Ridley Park UMC; Bethlehem UMC near West Chester, PA; Annville UMC, where he retired from fulltime ministry in 2000; and Milton Grove UMC, where he served for eight years in retirement. He was a member of the Optimist Club and the Lions Club during this time.
Gary took his family to Cape May, NJ for many summers before retiring, and instilled in them a lifelong love for the Philadelphia Phillies. During his retirement, Gary and Marty traveled many times to Europe, California, and many other places, including a number of years wintering in Florida.
Looking back over his long life of love and selfless service, he recently wrote, “The Lord has been good. We trust that we have been faithful to Him in our long journey through this life.” His family and friends will miss his easy laughter, his brilliant love, his mischief, and his consistent strength through the trying times of life.
Gary’s parishioners often recall his availability, through the day and night, at the times they most needed him. He visited every church family at their home, made countless visits to parishioners at home and in hospitals and nursing homes, and had a special gift for prayer that no one will ever forget. He also never missed a chance to hug and hold his family, to tell us how much he loved us, or to pick us up—and carry us through—the trying times in life.
Gary is survived by his wife of 54 years, Martha Rainbolt Epler; his two sons, James Wesley (Meilee) of San Jose, CA and Thomas Richard (Nicole) of Hamilton, NJ; granddaughter Catherine; sister, Carole Rice; brother, Douglas Epler; and numerous cousins, nephews, and nieces.
A celebration of Gary’s life will be held at the Brethren Village chapel on Saturday, November 19, with family visitation from 12:30-1:00 pm and a memorial at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation in honor of Gary to Hospice & Community Care of Lancaster through the “Make a Gift” tab on their website.
We will carry forward Dad’s loyalty, service to others, and his mission of love into the world.