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

24 thoughts on “Gary Kretchmer, 1946 – 2020

  1. Lynda Wheeler says:

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute to Gary. We only knew him through our church and had no idea what an amazing mediator he was. He will be missed.

  2. Susan Szczucinski says:

    I too met Gary in the mid 90s when he taught me to become a mediator. I had many encounters with Gary in Johnson County. Gary was the consummate peacemaker and not afraid to tell lawyers like myself to knock it off. He will truly be missed. Pete your tribute to Gary was touching and heart felt.

  3. Betsy Ann T Stewart says:

    That being your goal, you accomplished it well and for those of us who knew him and value that experience. Thank you.

  4. Sheryl Kretchmer says:

    Oh, Pete! I read this beautiful memorial to Gary through my tears of love and loss. How can I thank you for taking the time to reflect and so beautifully put these thoughts and photos together for this lovely tribute. I will forever be grateful! In love and loss,

  5. What a beautiful tribute to the gentle, loving, funny and generous spirit that was the Gary I knew and had the privilege of working with and for. The times I spent with Gary are some of my most cherished memories. I was honored to be called his friend. Thank you for writing this. I have struggled with finding words this week.

    • Thank you Jan. I just watched Gary‘s graveside funeral service. Friends and family present were invited to cast three spades of dirt into the grave. The tradition included that the first spade be used upside down as representing a reluctance to release the loved one from this earth. I found this both fitting and spiritually meaningful.

  6. I sadly found out today of Gary’s passing. In the mid-sixties, Gary and I were in a UMKC Geology study group which met in the basement of his mother’s house off Pennsylvania St. in South Waldo. After graduation, we all went our separate ways as most do. Upon reading many of Gary’s remembrances,
    I know that my vision of Gary as a patient,caring focused teacher is shared and appreciated by many. I did, only vaguely know of Gary’s profession as a Mediator, but his success is not surprising. I am quite certain, I, as well as many others, will miss Gary. A loss of someone who was loved and appreciated such as Gary, will never get easier, just further away.

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