November 16, 2023
“The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man…” —Dusty Springfield
Scores of people traveled to Laguna Beach for Gary Bisbee’s memorial service on Nov. 10. The co-founder of the Health Management Academy, Gary died unexpectedly and suddenly after undergoing a minor cardiac procedure in March. He was 80 years old and hadn’t lost a step. The shock that he’s gone still hasn’t entirely worn away.
The Bisbee family and the Academy hosted the remembrance at the Montage Hotel. Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the Montage was Gary’s favorite conference venue. The formal program kicked off at 5 p.m., just as a spectacular sunset emblazoned the western sky. Perfect timing and location to celebrate the life of a remarkable man whose grace touched all who entered his expansive circle.
Sharp Healthcare’s Dr. Rick Lemoine served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. It was an evening filled with warm memories, great stories and more laughs than tears. A highlight was Jeff Jones’ spot-on impression of Gary delivering one of his patented fireside chats to himself. What a great and fitting tribute – Jeff wondered what questions and advice we would ask of Gary now if we only had the chance. That list is long and growing.
More than anything else, presenters and attendees marveled at Gary’s boundless energy, engaging curiosity and warm touch. He seemingly had time for everyone despite his packed schedule and rigorous exercise regimen. The son of an itinerant Methodist minister, Gary knew how to lift people up, spur them on and bring them together. This capacity for community-building may be his greatest legacy.
Later that evening, Intermountain Healthcare’s Bert Zimmerli observed to me, “If you’ve got to be something, be kind.” Bert’s observation captures the essence of Gary’s being. More than talent and intelligence, kindness can move mountains. Who wouldn’t go the extra mile for Gary when he did it for others so often and effortlessly?
Rick ended the memorial program by quoting Prime Minister Harold McMillan’s tribute to Winston Churchill,
The oldest among us can recall nothing to compare with him, and the younger ones among us, however long we live, will never see the like again.
Fitting words for a giant of a man who led by empowering others. Those of us who knew Gary may never see his like again.