Sunday, July 10, 2011 | 2 a.m.
My friend Jan Allen lost her second son, Gary Haupt, this past May.
Her other son, Craig, died in 2004. That is really tough duty for a mother. In fact, we all know that is not the way this thing is supposed to work. Parents are supposed to go first, then the kids, then the grandkids.
But that isn’t the way it has worked for Jan, who at almost 84 years of young age, has had to endure some untimely deaths of loved ones. Hers is not an unusual story, though. We all know families who have been similarly affected by deaths of children, spouses and even grandchildren well before their time.
What is special about Jan’s family and her story are the lives that will be touched in a most positive way because of Gary’s passing.
I have known Jan Allen for almost all of my adult life. She was, until recently, the woman responsible for registering the hundreds of Sun Youth Forum participants each and every year for almost half a century. She has been as much a part of that program as Ruthe Deskin or Barbara or Hank Greenspun or anyone else who has laid some claim of ownership to one of the most successful programs for young people in the country for almost six decades. She was also a valuable moderator of the Youth Forum until she decided there was more for her to do in this life, choosing to make room for some younger person eager to achieve a fraction of what Jan accomplished in service to the next generations.
This is really a story about Gary and what he has done for future generations of Las Vegans, but it can’t be told without giving credit to Jan, whose example of giving to this community and its children had been taught to Gary since he was a child.
Gary was born in Las Vegas and went through school here. In fact, he was a classmate of my sister Janie. If ever there was a person imbued with a love for this community and an understanding of its needs and the need to pull together, Gary Haupt was one of those people.
The last few years of Gary’s life were challenging for him. He succumbed to renal failure and cancer at an age when most people believe they are just getting started. But, for him, he lived long enough to know what he needed to do and how he wanted to be remembered.
Before he passed away, Gary made some significant gifts to community institutions. With his mother, he made sure that the Smith Center for the Performing Arts would benefit from his love for music. Opportunity Village will also benefit so it can serve people who quite often and in many other cities are not well served. Not here, though. Thank you, Gary.
And finally, Gary, who believed that he made a difference in peoples’ lives throughout his, has made sure that he will make a great difference in the lives of young people for many years to come.
Las Vegas Sun readers learned a great deal a few weeks ago when Brian Cram, director of the Las Vegas Sun Summer Camp Fund, wrote about what a camping experience means to Las Vegas’ needy children, many of whom would never see a mountain lake, a campfire or have the opportunity to play in summer temperatures hovering in the 80s rather than the stifling 100-plus degree heat that saps the energy and sags the spirit. Brian Cram made it clear how a week at summer camp can change a child’s life forever.
Jan knew that her son was sensitive to the needs of Las Vegas’ most needy children. So when he decided to make a substantial gift to the Sun Camp Fund to benefit youngsters for decades to come, she understood that Gary was just doing what he always did. He was expressing his kindness and goodness in a most tangible way.
We all know the economic devastation that Las Vegans have been working hard to survive. In times like these, people sometimes forget who they are or what is important. And for those who want to help, circumstances have made significant giving very difficult. But everyone who went to camp as a child, anyone who has a friend whose camping experience changed their life and someone who wants to help but doesn’t know how, can take Gary Haupt’s lead.
You don’t have to be staring at death to understand what is important in life. There is arguably a greater pleasure in helping others while you are alive to witness that great joy a gift can bring. Gary didn’t have a choice, but the rest of us do.
The summers aren’t getting any cooler and the opportunities for young people to experience camp and imagine a better future for themselves are not getting any more plentiful. Now is a good time to do in life what Jan Allen’s son Gary could only do in death.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.