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Slain hospital worker Kathy Gariety touched lives, family & friends say

GREENFIELD, Wis. (BP)–Tears welled up, but so did smiles and laughter as hundreds gathered Jan. 6 at Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Greenfield, Wis., to remember their beloved missionary friend, Kathy Gariety.

Gariety’s body had been laid to rest in Milwaukee earlier that day, in snow-covered Holy Cross Cemetery. The 53-year-old and two other Southern Baptist workers — physician Martha Meyers, 57, and hospital administrator William Koehn, 60 — lost their lives Dec. 30 when a lone gunman shot them during a staff meeting at the Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen. Myers and Koehn were buried the following day on the hospital grounds.

Though some friends and family continue to struggle with how such a tragedy could happen, others have taken comfort in knowing that the single woman was where she wanted to be. They recalled her tenacity, her stubbornness, her smile, her passion for the people of Yemen and her ability to rally others to give to the needs of so many who lived there.

“She had conviction, she had commitment, she had the fruits of the Spirit in her life,” said Keith Chase, Gariety’s close friend and pastor for 15 years. “Kathy knew that faith in God meant trusting in God no matter what, no matter when, no matter where. Her faith was strong as anyone I’d ever known.”

Chase recalled a trip he took with his wife to Yemen, where Gariety served 10 years as the hospital’s purchasing manager. He remembers her popularity with the people there — particularly the children.

“As soon as we got past the gate, children swarmed around Kathy,” he said. “It took 20 minutes to take a five-minute walk.”

Clara Alcott also recounted the influence Gariety had on her as a youth director and Sunday School teacher at the church.

“She was a consistent presence in my life,” Alcott said. “She was a good teacher because she was personable and strong.

“It’s very important for women to have a strong Christian woman’s presence in their lives and she was. I saw somebody finishing the race, and I saw someone finishing the race sprinting.”

Thai Hua, who moved from Vietnam to the United State without his family, recalled how Gariety helped him during a difficult and uncertain time.

“She helped me get my first job at a bookstore,” Hua said. “A lot of people say things and don’t mean it, but when she said something, she meant it. She meant a lot to me.”

Doris Moorman, who sang Gariety’s favorite song, “To the Ends of the Earth,” during the memorial service, said the slain worker had touched their lives when she led the youth group.

The day before the news of the tragedy in Yemen broke, one of Moorman’s sons was flipping through a Bible Gariety had given him as a gift. On one page, she had written: “May God’s Word have the final say in every decision you make.”

“She certainly pointed people to Jesus and radiated his love,” Moorman said. “She did what she talked about and risked her life. She trusted the Lord and put her life in his hands. I’m looking forward to the day when we will see her again.”

Cory Braatz remembered Gariety’s guidance and encouragement, not only as his Sunday School teacher years ago when he was 14, but also as a friend when he was trying to decide about seminary.

While many were pressuring him to go to seminary, Gariety encouraged Braatz to be a pastor for a couple of years first and then go to seminary once he knew that was what God called him to do fulltime. He followed her advice and later completed seminary. Today, he is pastor of Como Community Church in Lake Geneva.

“To thank Kathy is not a difficult thing for me,” he said, holding back tears. “It’s an easy thing. Thank you, Kathy, for giving to the Lord. I’m one life that was changed.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BROTHER & SISTER COMFORTED, AT THE GRAVESITE, and REMEMBERING KATHY.

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  • Shawn Hendricks