Life Fleeting


Life is precious. We are not guaranteed tomorrow on this earth. Those two thoughts came rushing into my mind as I read an email today about the passing of Gary “Shoe Shine Guy” Armstrong. He was found dead in his apartment over the weekend. Gary was 51.

Gary the shoe shine Guy

I saw him this past Friday afternoon at his usual spot at the bottom of the main staircase at the Maryland Farms YMCA. I had a pair of shoes for him to shine this morning, but he was not there. Since 2003 Gary had worked at the same spot, and over the years I gave him a lot of business. It will be strange going down the stairs and not hearing Gary’s soundtrack of 60, 70 and 80 tunes in his old-school stereo he setup every day. Interestingly, Gary had a blog with only four entries from April of 2007. I only discovered it today as I googled his name. He was a surprisingly good writer. Even though I saw Gary everyday, there’s so much about him I never knew.

I knew of Gary’s past heart issues, but I never saw this coming. No one did. We never do. But the reality of our own mortality just hit home again for me. Life is truly brief and tomorrow is not a guarantee. At moments like these I think of

the love that I need to share,

the appreciation that I need to show,

the Kindness that I need to return,

the adventures that I need to pursue,

the stories that I need to write,

the dreams that I need to fulfill,

the battles that I need to fight,

the wrongs I need to right,

the faith I need to share,

the legacy that I need to leave.

If you knew you had a month to live, what would be on the top of your to do list?


  • Powerful!  This is a much needed reminder for all.  I need to show and verbally communicate the depth of my love for others.  I need to communicate this on a regular basis to my kiddos, my spouse, friends…

  • I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. If I had one month I’d take my family to Disneyland.

  • K Wilson

    Thanks for posting this.  They had a memorial setup this morning for him.  No Doobie Brothers playing though.  I never talked with him but he seemed to enjoy people and the experience of life.

    • I saw the flowers, the guest book and a bucket with lollipops. There was a somber mood in the locker room today.

  • Jennifer Roberts

    Wow!  It amazes me how you see people everyday…talk to them, work with them, care about them and still there is so much we don’t know about each other.  I wish there was more entries in Gary’s blogs, because as I was reading them they gave me insight into a man I never knew.  Whether you miss his music, his trivia questions or his booming laugh, there will always be an empty seat at the bottom of the stairs where we will always remember!!

  • I would definitely travel and visit all the friends/family I don’t get to see very often, and then spend the remaining time with my mom and brother. 

    • I’d be going on an eating tour of Italy for sure!

      • There are a few Must See places on my list – parts of Italy are definitely on there!

  • Tim McElhaney

    My heart goes out to you in thanks Maurillio. 
     Thank you (and others) for providing Gary the opportunity to use his talent of shining shoes.  this undoubtedly gave him dignity and worth, as opposed to his living off others.  Shining shoes – sort of reminds me of someone I read about in The Word who took time to wash feet.  What an example George was…

  • I read his blogposts just now and oh how I wish I had known him.  What a wonderful man and such a gift.

    Thanks for sharing and perhaps another will appear at the bottom of the steps that will be just as shining as he was…blessings!

  • Chase

    Loving and Sharing. Period.

  • This really breaks my heart.  I knew him from running my fairs just down the hall from him.  The first time I worked down there I was getting ticked off at him cuz he was blaring his music and I was trying to play the music I had for sale.  Then I finally just gave up and didn’t play anything while he was there.  He eventually wandered down and bought several CD’s from me.  He did everytime I came there.  One day he was playing some great 70’s songs I’d been looking for, and he grabbed a handful and brought them down to me to put on my Ipod.  You could tell everybody loved him.  What a great guy…and he was only two years older than me.  Think I’ll jott down those closing thoughts of yours.

  • Inspiring message but sad to hear about Gary. If you’re giving us a month to have an impact and know the end is near I would say that’s very generous! If I had a month I would work even harder to “Live, Love, Learn, Leave A Legacy” – my favorite quote, by Stephen R. Covey.

  • Pczimmer

    I have known Gary four a long time.Every day I would walk down the steps and say hi.He was the sweetest man in the whole world. I miss him so much he will never leave my heart.

  • Explorerthe2nd

    Well said –

  • Bob Knestrick

    We will miss Gary for all he meant to our YMCA family.  His area of the YMCA will never be the same.  We will miss his music, laugh, trivia, and stories. 

  • Kristina Korte

    Maurilio – thanks for your post about Gary. I still can’t believe he is gone. He was a friend of mine, and I am so upset that I didn’t make that call to get together and have dinner with him as we had planned. I talked to him a few weeks back, and he told me how he’d been in the hospital, but I never realized things were that bad or thought his final day was near. I guess none of us ever do. The first time I met Gary was at a Titan’s football game when he was dressed up like a clown. That clown outfit often got him on the jumbotron, and he even made ESPN’s sports highlights. He got the biggest kick out of that. He was a great man, had an amazing sense of humor, and touched many lives. He will be missed by many, and I don’t think Gary ever truly realized how many people loved and admired him. He often said that women wouldn’t date him because of his job, and I would tell him that those women weren’t worth dating. He had allot of pride and honor, and I respected him for never taking the easy road. Some encouraged him to go the welfare route because of his medical conditions, but he would never consider that for a minute. He loved what he did and he especially loved the people he met and spoke to each day at the YMCA. He would often call me on his way home from work when he would be at the grocery check out line and express his frustration with modern technology and that it was not his favorite thing, especially when it didn’t work and talked back at you. He would call it the check-out line witch. LOL! My one hope for Gary now that he is gone is that his movie script is put in the right hands and made into a movie one day. I helped him edit it over the years, and we often laughed and talked about who he wanted to play the various characters in the movie. That would be such an amazing tribute to him. He may be gone but will never be forgotten!!!

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