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Gary Doyle Faulkner

Gary Doyle Faulkner, 77, passed away on November 14, 2021, surrounded by family at his home in Oxford, North Carolina. Gary was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi on September 20, 1944. He grew up in a modest house next to a rural airport, inspiring a lifelong love of flying small airplanes. As a young boy, he pumped water from the family well because his home had no indoor plumbing. Gary lost his father at the age of six, his mother worked in the textile industry, and his adored brother Leon was 15 years older than he. With much time to spend alone, he entertained himself reading books in the library, finding animals to raise, rummaging through the woods with a .22 rifle, and concocting science experiments. He spent happy summers on the Cash River in Arkansas with his grandmother and “Uncle Burley”, who fished and trapped for a living.

Gary’s mother encouraged his education and musical interests, prompting him to teach himself guitar and go on to play in several bands. He completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Georgia State University, and later studied mathematics, earning a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina, and a PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology. Gary met Marian (Mia) Bray while working at a chemical company, and they later married and raised two children. They moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where Gary got an appointment as a professor of mathematics at North Carolina State University. He published 14 papers and was cited over 90 times. Gary had a large impact on his students and can be remembered for his sayings, one of which was “Be kind to mean people. They need it most.” He helped two families of Vietnamese Montagnard refugees settle in the USA, and many regarded him as a friend to those in need.

Gary was extremely bright, naturally talented in many arenas, and pursued multiple hobbies. He earned a private pilot’s license, taught himself how to machine guns, and spent several summers collaborating on mathematical research in Italy at the Università degli Studi di Perugia. Gary moved to Oxford, NC to fulfill his dream of a house with sufficient land to do target shooting. He remarried and spent the rest of his life in Oxford with his wife Karen. In retirement, he took courses in machine shop at Vance Granville Community College, where he made many new and deep friendships.

Gary loved his family and friends, animals (particularly his dog Sophie and a deer fawn named Lucy), computers, fossil hunting on Falls Lake, science fiction, .22 rifles, playing guitar, caramel fudge candy, Cheetos, Diet Coke, fried catfish, margherita pizzas with anchovies, key lime and lemon icebox pies, dirty jokes, sunflowers, his BMW Z3 M, photography, Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family, Kruger National Park (South Africa), button down shirts with pockets, and back scratches. During his final weeks, Gary brought his family together in love, his final gift to us.

Gary was preceded in death by his father James Grady Faulkner, and his mother Tezzie Faulkner (nee Williams). Gary is survived by his wife Karen Chiswell, children Katharine Faulkner and Peter Faulkner, brother Leon Faulkner, niece Tena McQueen, great niece Ashlee Fulmer, and her children Lane and Mac. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation (https://www.parkinson.org/), or Hospice Care Charity Foundation (Medi Home Health & Hospice, c/o Hospice Care Charity, 665 Carver Drive, Suite B, Roxboro, NC 27573). A private celebration of Gary’s life with friends and family will be arranged in the coming weeks.

In remembrance of Gary, the family shares a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

The Swan

This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying – releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood –
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.

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