Gary Kretchmer was both a friend and a mentor. He closed his eyes for the last time on December 29, 2020. I have not yet read his obituary, but I am certain that when it is written it will, like so many others, celebrate the accomplishments of his life. What I hope is included is tribute to the impact that Gary will continue to have in the lives of thousands of men, women, and children for years to come.
Gary was a Mediator’s Mediator. He was adept at working as a Mediator for separated and divorced couples. His experience extended years before I learned that ”Mediation” was not “Meditation” misspelled. Over the 25 years of my Mediation practice I considered it a busy year if I worked with 300 couples. In his position as Director of the Mediation Program for Johnson County Kansas Court Services Gary likely worked with over 1,000 couples a year… often 4 couples in a single day, sometimes more. Day after workday he waded into the toxicity of couples in conflict, couples hurt, scared, couples cast into the role of litigants unable to effectively continue as parents. Gary was gifted at bringing peace to these Mothers and Fathers, moreover he salvaged “childhood” for tens of thousands of children caught in the vice of their parents’ conflict. Gary showed that there was light at the end of their tunnel
I first met Gary in the mid-1990’s, attending one of his trainings. I was immediately drawn to his calm and almost apostolic approach to communication in conflict. In that first encounter with Gary I learned that a Mediator could rarely make a misstep so long as the contributions were kept in the form of questions rather than statements. The Mediator acted as an interpreter between two people who found themselves either speaking over one another or speaking different “parenting languages”. Gary taught that the role of the Mediator was to provide a safe space for couples to craft their own resolutions. The Mediator teaches skills that empower folks to navigate their future. The Mediator is not a judge who makes decisions for them. As Gary would reflect, this is the difference between a Mediator (with a capital “M”) and a mediator. Gary was a deeply spiritual man who pursued his craft not so much as an occupation but as a calling. Much of whatever skill I developed came from lessons that I learned from him.
Beyond his work Gary was a consummate peacemaker and family man. He and his wife Sheryl were often guests at spiritual celebrations of other faith traditions. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist… to Gary, God was God, regardless of the form of worship. Gary and Sheryl enjoyed an annual Christmas Eve tradition of lunch at Andre’s Restaurant in Kansas City that began in 1984 when they first began dating.
It was the highest form of praise that over the years Gary would repeatedly encourage me with the words, “Pete, you are doing God’s work”. In my last training I was honored to be a co-presenter with three other gifted Mediators, Hugh O’Donnell, Dawn Kuhlman, and of course Gary Kretchmer.
Although our paths rarely crossed after our respective retirements, I feel a personal loss at his passing. The Mediation community in Metropolitan Kansas City not to mention tens of thousands of men, women, and children have much to be thankful for due to this good man.
I am certain that Gary will Rest In Peace since he lived his entire life, in Peace.
Peace Everyone. Pete