‘He was just a bright, bright light’: Remembering Gary Tinder
July 6, 2020
DePaul student Gary Tinder’s unconditional kindness is the first thing most people remember about him.
His friends said he “couldn’t hurt a fly.” His former pastor said he was conscientious and sweet — full of integrity. His sister said that even though they didn’t talk every day, she knew he’d be there for her whenever she needed him.
Gary’s genuine compassion for others and gentle nature made his unexpected death all the more confusing for those who knew him.
While walking home from his job at Starbucks in Andersonville on June 21, he was shot at the 6200 block of North Troy Street at approximately 7:22 p.m., according to the Chicago Police Department Office of Communications. He was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:12 p.m.
He was 20 years old.
The shooting is being treated as a homicide, first-degree murder, according to the CPD Office of Communications. Area Three detectives are investigating.
“I was dumbfounded, honestly,” said Rev. Matt Hoffman, the pastor at St. Andrews Lutheran Church and School, where Gary attended middle school. “Just the thought of somebody hurting someone like Gary who would never want to hurt anybody else.”
Gary’s family said he was a quirky kid growing up. He loved vegetables and cottage cheese — “It always was so weird how he could like cottage cheese,” his sister Hannah said — and after getting sick off Jello as a child, never tried it again.
In school, Gary always had a “math mind.” His mother, Jane, was his first grade teacher, and in class, they’d often play the game “Around the World,” where students would compete to get math problems right first.
Gary would always win. In fact, he won so often that the other kids thought he was cheating because his mom was the teacher.
“The kids were like, ‘That’s no fair, she’s your mom, you’re working with him’ and I’d be like ‘No, I’m not, I promise!’” Jane told The DePaulia. “He just had that math gift from when he was born.”
Gary continued to achieve throughout his whole life.
He was valedictorian of his middle school, a member of German Honors Society in high school and played trumpet in honors band throughout both middle school and some of high school. In eighth grade, he won the state long-jump championship with the Lutheran School Association.
At DePaul, he had a 4.0 GPA and multiple scholarships — accomplishments his family said were easily expected for Gary.
“He’s one of those kids that you’re like, ‘Oh, gosh darnit, he doesn’t have to hardly study and he gets it,’ you know?” Jane said.
Brooke Chrysty, a childhood friend, told The DePaulia that Gary was “good at everything.”
“He was good at sports, school — in German class we would all get our grades and we always were like ‘Gary, we don’t even wanna hear yours because you’re going to have the best grade out of all of us,” Chrysty said.
Still, he faced hardships throughout his childhood. Gary’s father died while he was still in middle school, which affected the Tinder family for many years.
“Gary and I, we didn’t have didn’t have an easy childhood, with our dad dying at such a young age,” Hannah said. “He didn’t become bitter and mad at the world. He chose to love and show love to others and have a positive outlook on life.”
“I don’t think that people saw his struggles because he kept that in,” Chrysty said. “He always had a smile on his face and honestly that made him very strong. And he knew that people around him were there for him.”
When Gary picked accounting as his college major at DePaul, his family wasn’t surprised. With his natural mathematical skills, they said he hoped he’d make a lot of money in accounting so that he could use it to take care of his family.
“He was working so hard so that he could try and take care of us, me and Hannah — he was going to make a million so he could help us out and take care of us,” Jane said.
In his free time at DePaul, Gary had recently taken up guitar and drawing; he spent a lot of time at the Art Institute.
“He loved going to the Art Institute in between classes,” Jane said. “I came to visit in December at Christmas time, and we went down there to see the Andy Warhol exhibit. I was just blown away — he knew where everything was in the Art Institute, and he could tell me about the paintings and what his favorite room was.”
He also worked at Starbucks as a barista since May 2019. Brian Mahoney, the general manager of the Andersonville Starbucks, said that Gary’s work ethic endeared him to his coworkers and described Gary as “unassumingly hilarious.”
“Gary represented everything that is good and aspired to be something great,” he said.
On Father’s Day — the day that Gary died — he texted his mom that he was heading home and thanked her for always being there for him. She said that as a single mom, she was touched that he appreciated the hard work it took and that he took the time to say it.
While Gary’s life was short, his family said they believe the impact he had on his loved ones will last far beyond the confines of his life.
“He only lived — he was 20 years old. But all the people [he] impacted, you know — if you’re out there being your genuine self and trying to love people, it does have an effect,” Jane said. “If you had asked him how many people would be [at his memorial], he’d be like, ‘Oh, maybe just family.’ I can’t imagine that he would ever have realized how many people he impacted, with, you know, just just being him. He wasn’t doing anything special, he was just being the kind, wonderful person he was.”
Update: The first sentence of the story has been updated to indicate that Gary Tinder was a DePaul student.