Gary Baer was born in Chicago to Francis Baer and Juanita Bushnell, both of whom are deceased. He attended St. Patrick’s Grade School in St. Charles, Illinois, and St. Edward’s Central Catholic High School in Elgin, graduating in 1964.
He received the Dominican Habit as a Cooperator Brother on December 19, 1965 at St. Rose Priory in Dubuque Iowa (he was the last brother to receive the traditional black scapular habit of the brothers, and said he was always proud of it). He made his first profession a year later. In Dubuque he taught 4th grade religion, and served as refectorian, assistant sacristan, and in the tailor shop from 1965 until 1969, when he was assigned to St. Albert the Great Priory in Minneapolis. Although he originally went there to pursue studies in religious education, he accepted a position as Director of Religious Education at the parish. He helped establish a pre-school at St. Albert’s and served as a representative to the parish Council.
He remained at St. Albert’s until 1978, with the exception of one year when he worked in the Registrar’s office at the Angelicum in Rome. He brought all of his insight and organizational skills to that job, but found the work frustrating and only remained a year. In his straightforward manner, he told the provincial at the time that the Angelicum’s systems were about “three centuries behind the times.”
In 1978, he accepted a position as Youth Director in a parish in St. Paul, and he remained there until 1982. He served in a similar capacity at St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, Illinois. He went to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids in 1985, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in religious education and also served as Director of Student Activities.
In 1994, he moved on to teach at Greater Muskegon (Michigan) Catholic School. He loved high school work, and made significant contributions to the spiritual life of the student body. When he left Muskegon in 2002, he spent several years working in the Vocations Office, and his last full-time assignment was to St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University. During that time he was involved in interreligious dialogue, especially with the Buddhist community. v
These diverse assignments showed his many gifts, both administrative and pastoral, and demonstrated his love of the Order, of his brothers, and of those to whom he ministered. He made a deep impression upon people wherever he was assigned.
In 2010, his health had declined significantly; he had progressively lost most of his sight, and he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He returned to Chicago where he resided with his niece, Deanna Duffy and her husband William. His health continued to deteriorate, and he started dialysis in September of 2011. Despite his health challenges he never lost his zest for life, his desire to be, as he said, “out and about,” and his love for his companion dogs, Angus and Murphy.
At the time of his death, he was engaged in a dialogue with the Provincial about a future living arrangement that would keep him active yet provide adequate medical care.