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As word spread within the last 18 hours that Gary Cavasos died in a plane crash, family, colleagues and friends have tried to summon the words to describe a man they admired, respected and loved.
“Gary was a family man — he loved his family so much — his passion was flying and his wife and his kids,” said younger brother David Morales. “I’ve known him for the 40 years I’ve been alive and he was a wonderful brother and he would give the shirt off his back to anybody.”
Cavasos, 54, and Morales had different fathers. Cavasos was born in Hobbs and he and his brother and their sister Melody, 33, grew up around the Las Cruces area, Morales said Wednesday evening.
He traveled to Los Alamos from his home in Dallas on Tuesday morning after learning his brother had not returned from a Friday night plane trip.
“Gary and Liz were married for 28 years and have two children, Ashley, 22, who lives in Albuquerque and Shawn, 21, who lives in Los Alamos,” he said.
“I remember it was about five years ago when Gary gave me my first ride in his plane. He was being the older brother and I was being the little brother and I just loved seeing how passionate he was about flying.”
Cavasos volunteered with the Flying Samaritans, a nonprofit organization, which operates free medical clinics in Mexico.
Pilots, doctors, dentists, nurses, translators and support personnel volunteer their time towards that effort.
Cavasos was seen for the last time when he flew his plane out of the Los Alamos County Airport Friday evening and stopped to refuel at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport at about 9 p.m.
A search was launched Monday. Officials in Arizona reported Wednesday afternoon that identification found on the pilot in a plane that went down in a mountainous area about 50 miles west of Flagstaff indicated that Cavasos did not survive the crash.
Cavasos worked in the Los Alamos County Information Technology Department the last seven years and at Los Alamos National Laboratory before that.
Sadness filled IT Manager Laura Gonzales’ voice this morning as she spoke of Cavasos.
“Gary was a wonderful person to work with – always dependable, responsible and he was a terrific boss to those who worked for him,” Gonzales said. “He was so involved in the leadership in this community and was such a giving person, not only in his capacity with the county but in helping anyone who needed him whether at work or to move a shed for someone at their home. We’re all like a family and he was very important to all of us – we will miss him so much.”
County Administrator Anthony J. Mortillaro described Cavosos’ death as “a tragic loss.”
“Gary was a great employee and a friend to many of us here at the county,” Mortillaro said. “Our hearts go out to his family today, and to our IT employees who worked so closely every day with Gary.”
County spokeswoman Julie Habiger also knew Cavasos.
“Gary Cavasos was a true ‘go-to’ person within our IT department,” Habiger said. “If you had a computer question or concern, he would always take the time to help you. He was well-known and respected by our employees, who came to know Gary very well through the years because of his work on various IT projects across all of our county facilities.”
Cavasos was a 2009 Leadership Los Alamos graduate. Kim and Ron Selvage co-chaired LLA that year and came to know Cavasos well.
“We invited Gary to join the class because of his philanthropy doing things like flying medical supplies to Mexico,” Kim said. “He was truly a friend to all. When he said something — it always improved the conversation. Gary was just one of those people everyone wanted to know. He was quiet yet when he spoke, what he had to say was of great value to us.”
Funeral arrrangements are pending.