by Hillel of Colorado Executive Director Daniel W. Bennett, September 1, 2022
Gary Agron passed away last Friday at age 78. His children all echoed words from his obituary that, “Gary lived life to the fullest and had no regrets,” when the four of them spoke at his funeral this past Sunday. Gary’s impressive, grown-up kids also shared with mourners how much Gary valued family, how deeply he loved them and their kids, and they, him. Gary had no regrets. But, his dozen grandchildren, their parents, and all his friends will miss him more than he could have known. Modest to the end, the deep impact Gary had on this world might have surprised him.
I knew Gary a little from my many decades in Denver’s Jewish community – but didn’t have the pleasure of really knowing him until I became executive director of Hillel of Colorado and Gary joined Hillel’s board in December 2017. Back in the early-mid 2000’s when Hillel built the DU House and strengthened its place in the community as a critical bridge to Jewish adulthood and a home-away-from-home for thousands of young, wandering Jews, Gary quietly worked behind the scenes to serve Hillel’s mission. He never stopped supporting Hillel generously, telling me that he felt lucky to be able to help keep Jewish values alive for generations to come. Our Jewish students were the lucky ones.
When Gary’s close friend Ed Barad returned to chair Hillel’s board to ensure Hillel recovered from its post-Recession struggles, Gary agreed to join him. Ed told me Gary never said “no” to him because the cause was always so important. Hillel has recovered and thrived, thanks in no small part to Gary Agron. A quiet advisor to me, Gary freely shared a lifetime of knowledge, provided a reassuring, steady voice, and supported Hillel generously over the past quarter-century. Gary’s final bequest to Hillel, understated as was always his way, was to ask that his obituary close with these words: “Contributions to Hillel of Colorado.”
We read in Deuteronomy 34:7 that Moses was 120 years old when he died, so Jews are fond of wishing those we love a long life: “to one hundred-twenty!” we say to our friends on their birthdays. But the rabbis were smart, knew quality trumped quantity, and in Mishnah Avot 5:21 prescribed: at forty wisdom; at fifty able to give counsel; at sixty old age; at seventy fullness of years; and at eighty strength…before at 90 we begin our real decline. I’m grateful for the years we had Gary Agron here with us. But in truth I wish – for all our sakes – we’d had that dozen additional years or so.