Gary Lee Vande Kamp, 71, of North Branch, died on June 7, 2019, after battling leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of internal muscular cancer, related to Agent Orange.
He was born April 6, 1948, in Albert Lea, Minn., the eldest of five sons to Lambert, Sr. and Ruth (Ames) Vande Kamp. Gary grew up on one of Chisago County’s largest dairy and crop farms, and graduated from North Branch High School May 23, 1967. Upon high school commencement, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1968, where he completed basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky., and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division – Tropical Lightning/Wolfhounds – and served admirably as an infantrymen and combat engineer during combat operations in the Republic of Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He is a double recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star (with V device). Four days after returning from Vietnam, he wed Gail Louise Anderson on June 7, 1969.
He continued to serve in a multitude of leadership positions and missions as an Army Reservist with the 88th ARCOM at Fort Snelling.
He was selected and served as a trainer for the Army Marksmanship Team at Fort Benning, Ga., during his USAR tenure, in addition to several instrumental military events, culminating in his retirement, as a Sergeant First Class, in 1998. Gary worked for E.F. Hals and Sons for seven years, followed by 32 years at the Chisago County Highway Department. He was a superior marksmen and life member of the Gopher Rifle and Revolver Gun Club in Harris, Minn., and Brunswick Gun Club of Coastal Georgia. Gary thoroughly enjoyed collecting firearms and accessories to support his loved hobby – competition shooting. He enjoyed leisure travel and especially visiting the annual Amish & English Horse Auction held in Waverly, Iowa. In 2008, he and Lee Larson visited Vietnam, specifically the areas his unit occupied during the war, to include the VC tunnels. This travel experience was a wonderful way of sharing his memories while preserving comradery among veterans of all generations. He was a talented and very meticulous wood craftsman. Gary was a proud veteran and dedicated member of the American Legion Posts 139 and 85. He was a generous, hardworking and caring man, full of love and never met a stranger.
He was preceded in death by his beloved parents Lambert Sr. and Ruth Vande Kamp; grandparents Harold and Ruth Ames, Garrett and Hattie Vande Kamp; uncle Walter Vande Kamp; aunts Jennie Rowe and Effie (Lawrence) Torell; nephew Kevin Vande Kamp and family friend Tamara Mechels.
Gary is survived by his wife Gail; brothers Bob, Bruce (Carol), Ron (Kathy) and Ross (Debbie); daughters 1SG[R] Cari Vande Kamp, Heather (Steve) Pouti, Heidi (Brad) Bergeron; grandchildren Courtney, Andrew, Candace, Megan, Landon, Hunter, James and Tanner; nephews Brendan, Keith, Jason, Jaryd, Cory; nieces Melissa and Amy, as well as many cousins, relatives in the Netherlands and so many loving friends.
A Memorial Visitation will be held on Friday, June 14, 2019, from 4-7 p.m. at the Grandstrand Funeral Home, 6580 Main Street, North Branch, MN 55056.
Arrangements made through the Cremation Society of Minnesota.