On the morning of September 17, Gale Larson left his flesh vessel, surrounded by his wife and children. In recognition of his abhorrence for ceremonies, no formal gatherings will be held. The family asks that in lieu of flowers or donations, people will plant a tree in his recognition.

His family most remembers him for his love of the outdoors, specifically trail shortcuts on the family backpacking trips. “Godforsaken, rhody-ridden, vine-maple-tangled shortcuts through rock slides and thunderstorms,” says his son, Erik Randall.

“The kids wondered if they would see the trail again,” says his widow, Molly, “And the shortcuts added miles to our trips. I had to pack extra candy to keep the kids from crying.”

But lovers of the outdoors they all became. His two daughters followed him into U.S. Forest Service firefighting; Lynne Marie married a fellow firefighter, Ron Whitley; and Elaine Kirsten stayed on with the Forest Service for 13 years.

The family celebrated his transition with a hike on the Metolius River in record density smoke from wildfires.

Gale lived a charmed life. Norma and Lars Larson reared him and three brothers in Newport, Washington during the country’s boom-time logging days. Gale worked summers in a remote logging camp, and as a pick-up firefighter, while attending Washington State University for a forestry degree. A draft notice arrived just as he finished his degree and married Marilyn (Molly) Bookter. The two lived the forester’s life till retirement, and promptly joined the Peace Corps, which tasked them with helping to preserve native jungle on the Philippines island of Palawan.

A move to Sisters introduced the couple to a thriving Habitat for Humanity chapter. Gale joined the building crew and, with Molly, led several work crews on international builds.

Gale’s final shortcut lasted several years. He received a newly developed treatment for metastatic melanoma known as immune therapy. Free of cancer for the rest of his life, he lived with the crippling effects of treatment, which eventually took his life.