Upon the passing of her son, one mother of a Sam Houston State University alumnus and photographer is striving to let his legacy live on through his life’s work.
Yvonne Gary has held onto most of her son’s photos up until now, recently relinquishing them to The Houstonian.
Claude Joseph Gary, Jr. lost his battle with colon cancer in December 1998. Gary majored in photography and minored in geology. After graduating from SHSU, Gary became an award-winning photographer.
Gary graduated from SHSU in 1982. He then moved to Midland and began a free-lance photography career. Eventually, Gary was hired to do photography at Rubin’s Studio. Later on, Randy Rubin, the studio owner, passed away. His widow sold the studio to Gary.
Today, Gary’s photographs from his studio are displayed at the Petroleum Museum located in Midland.
“When he was in high school, he looked into different careers,” Yvonne Gary said. “I don’t think he really knew what he wanted to be until he got to Sam Houston, and apparently he picked the right one.”
Gary’s geology class at SHSU took a trip to Canada during which the young photographer practiced his art.
“I believe it was ’81 or ’82 and he was in Dr. Yoe’s geology class,” Yvonne Gary said. “He kept a journal of the trip almost minute by minute. I still have it and some of the photos.”
Gary had taken pictures when he was at SHSU of students, faculty, places and events, including the infamous burning down of the original Old Main. The Houstonian recently published one of Gary’s pictures from the ‘80s in which some readers were able to identify themselves.
“He enjoyed photographing anything,” Yvonne Gary said. “Beautiful women—I’m sure he enjoyed that, and portraits of families.”
While in the hospital during July 1998, Gary took a Polaroid photo of a man walking by. He chewed the bare end of a match until it was like a brush and used it to doctor the colors of this photo.
“He just had a way of doing it,” Yvonne Gary said. “It always came out so nice. He did several like this. I have one of an old truck titled ‘Gone but Not Forgotten.’ He was so good.”
Doctors in Midland were not sure what was wrong with Claude Gary, when they first discovered blockage. After doing a test, they determined that he had colon cancer.
To this day, Yvonne Gary keeps a list of all Claude’s awards and has many of his photographs displayed throughout her house.
“I remember it was either June or July 1998 and Claude needed some photos from his studio,” Yvonne Gary said. “His secretary did not bring as requested, so he made his dad and I drive him to his studio in his hospital gown. He was all curled up in the backseat with his IV still in his arm. When we got there, he took the prints he wanted and brought them back to work on. It was just so funny.”
For Yvonne Gary, releasing these photos is not giving away part of her son, but giving them back to whom they truly belong.
“What I have left is just a part of what he accomplished,” Yvonne Gary said.
To see some of Claude Gary’s photographs, click here. If you recognize anyone in these photographs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so The Houstonian can return these photos to their rightful owners, per Yvonne Gary’s request.