Owner of Gay Parita Sinclair station dies


Gary Turner, the beloved owner of the Gay Parita Sinclair gas station on old Route 66 west of Halltown, Missouri, died Thursday night.

Turner’s daughter, Barb Barnes, confirmed his passing Friday morning. Turner had battled health problems in the last few years, including a stroke in 2012 and a lengthy stay in the hospital this month.

Barnes said her father would be cremated, and there likely would be no funeral service. However, a memorial service will be scheduled at the station he built and loved.

Turner’s station was a re-creation of a circa-1930 gas station owned by Fred and Gay Mason that stood in the tiny hamlet of Paris Springs, Missouri, until it burned down in 1955.

During his retirement, Turner rebuilt the station, and it quickly became a must-stop for Route 66 travelers because of his hospitality and quirky, homespun humor. A planned 15-minute for visitors often turned into three hours — and they didn’t mind.

One of the best stories that conveyed Turner was by Andrew Evans, writing for the Digital Nomad blog for National Geographic.

Gary is the opposite of intimidating. He offers me a cold root beer from his outdoor fridge, all the while telling me how business works on Route 66 functions today—how everybody on the road looks out for everybody else. “If you treat people right and I hear about it, then I send more people your way. But if you serve crappy food and have unfair prices, well then,” he pauses for effect. “You just won’t last.” He names an establishment in Oklahoma that I must avoid at all costs. “Worst hamburger I ever had,” he shakes his head, then swears. Gary’s wife Lena walks over and sits down next to him. “You’ll see — it’s a family, all of us on Route 66. When you get to Santa Monica, you’ll miss it and want to come back.”

Here’s a bit more pre-Parita history on Turner, via the Route 66 University website:

Gary G. Turner was born February 3, 1944 — a cold and blustery day in Abesville, Missouri — to Henry and Dorothy Turner. Gary has been married to his wife and best friend, Lena, for 47 years, and to this union four children were born: two sons and two daughters.

Gary moved to California in the 1960s, and led an adventurous life there. His occupations included stints as “bank robber” at world-famous Knott’s Berry Farm; cement truck driver; and owner and operator of a used car dealership.

After returning to the Missouri Ozarks in the late 1970s, Gary spent twenty-three years on American highways as an eighteen-wheel truck driver delivering groceries and produce to a four-state area. Upon retirement, Gary took over the Gay Parita service station on Route 66 in Paris Springs, Missouri, about twenty-five miles west of Springfield in Lawrence County.

Finally, here is a video of Turner shot by roadie Nick Gerlich a couple of years ago:

UPDATE: Turner’s son, Steve, posted this message on the Gay Parita Sinclair Facebook page:

Today is a day for celebration and life of a great husband, father, and friend, Gary Turner, Gary’s Gay Parita. He lived his life as he wanted to, to be able to sit on the bench and have a soda with you. He will be greatly missed but still be there to give directions to the greatest spots around. We love you and many more too “Friends For Life” to Each of You!

Steve also posted a link to a Springfield, Missouri, television station’s tribute to his dad.

The Gary Turner’s Gay Parita Sinclair group on Facebook also is where you can surf dozens of people posting memories of their times with him.

UPDATE 1/24/2015: Turner’s family will host a memorial at his residence from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, according to an obituary by the funeral home. As previously report, Turner will be cremated.

UPDATE 1/26/2015: Another memorial celebration of Turner’s life will occur at the station at March 15, starting at 11 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. the second. More about the event may be found here.

(Image of Gay Parita station by Larry Myhre via Flickr)

37 thoughts on “Owner of Gay Parita Sinclair station dies

  1. Hello from the UK. We are so very sorry to hear the news.. We will never, ever, forget the time we spent with Gary in 2007, we learned so much about Route 66 from him, such a delightful character. Condolences to all his Family. Jill and Roger Gilbert.

  2. RIP Dear Gary !
    We’re so sad … he was so nice, so generous !! We met him april 2009 ! A so great moment ! Friendship from Belgium !!

  3. We have been visiting Gary and Lena for the last seven years on our annual motorcycle Route 66 tour. We bring a different group of people from the UK every year and it is the highlight of the tour. Gary’s hospitality with his coffee and doughnuts was legendary.
    We will miss you our dearest friend but will still stop at the garage in September this year.
    MCi Tours, UK

  4. Gary was a gem among men. We are so sad to hear of his heading “down the road”. When we do the Route again, it won’t be near as enjoyable without a visit with Gary. RIP amigo.

  5. We all will surely miss Gary. I was hoping to visit him again this year but sadly that won’t happen. RIP Gary and thanks so much for spreading the love you have for the Mother Road.

  6. My girlfriend and I met Gary last summer on a trip from Texas to Michigan. Gary was the true attraction, not the actual gas station. I was amazed by his stories and his personality. Our stop and chat, and the dr pepper we shared was a highlight of our journey. I want to share something Gary told us that day.

    He said ” this place, this gas station, stays the same. If you come back in 10 yrs it will be the same, and that my friend helps keep you young. It’s not about this road, or this gas station, its about the people who travel it”.

    I believe we, as route 66 travelers, were as special to him as he was to us. And I think we helped keep him young too. What a special, gentle, funny man. I will hold the memory of that day with me forever. Thank you, Gary, for your stories, that dr pepper, and keeping me young. RIP my friend.

    Dean Kraus.

  7. I live in the UK, and have only met Gary once… but I am so gutted to have lost him from my Route 66 family. He was a true gent, and the time spent with Gary was the highlight of our trip, it really was. Gary introduced us to two fellow Route 66 travellers from Canada, and we’re still close friends to this day. Needless to say, we, like many others who have been blessed to have spent time in the presence of Gary Turner, are in mourning today. It is a sad day for Route 66, and a sad day for all. Rest In Peace Gary. I’m raising a “sody pop” to you my friend.

  8. This is sad news. Condolences to Mr. Turner’s family and friends. Starting out as a rough year this 2015. Lots of history and some wonderful characters being lost, Becky Hargett of Becky’s Barn in IL and now Mr. Turner. This summer’s road trip from Chicago thru Missouri will not be the same. Hoping the younger generations take up where we are losing treasures.

  9. We first met Gary in 2005, stopping to take a photo of his lovely stone garage, encountering Gary and staying for hours! He was a giant on Route 66, one the road’s most beloved ambassadors. We came back to sit on the porch and feast on the ambiance of his reconstructed Gay Parita Station, feasting even more on his stories. We have had many a phone conversation, the last being just a couple of weeks ago after he and Gay Parita were honored by being #3 of places to visit on the Road. Our hearts are heaving with sadness! Yet we are warmed by the many wonderful memories we have of Gary! Lena and all the family, know that we loved him and we love you too, and keep you in our prayers!

  10. Gary was one of the highlights of our trip. We almost didn’t stop at his station that day as they day we getting away from us and I wanted to get to saint Louis before dark. But something told me to stop and I’m so very glad we did. Gary treated my wife and I with genuine affection. He sat with us for an hour and took pictures with us, tightened up our trip with an excellent book recommendation. I’m saddened that Gary is gone and that many people coming down the road in the future will miss his smiling face and stories of how things used to be. He will be missed. Route 66 lost a great.

    -Shane Sullivan

  11. I am deeply sad to hear this. What a great man. We met him last summer during our trip. He talked to us and another family for hours, and what he had to say about Route 66 was so interesting. We left truly feeling that we gained a friend. That night will be a memory that I’ll truly treasure forever, watching the Missouri sunset over beautiful landscape while having such great company. A big loss to Route 66. Rest in Heavenly Peace, Gary.

  12. We are sad to hear that our beloved friend is past away. We will miss him dearly. He often called to check on us. We would talk for hours about weather, business, and other things. He definitely was the one the greatest ambassador of Rt 66. He loved to promote businesses on Rt 66. His family is in our prayers.

  13. Gary inspired me to create a unit about Route 66. What a wonderful man. I will continue to share his story with my students and inspire them about the road. Rest in Peace sweet Gary.

  14. Oh no. 🙁 Such a tremendous loss on so many levels—we had a marvellous time with Gary and felt we had really made a new friend far from home. 🙁 Rest in Peace, Gary—you will be very dearly missed!

  15. I have been to Gary’s little piece of heaven many times. Usually with a car club I’m in. The first time I came with a group I was in my pink corvette the (Bitchin Barbie Car) He liked it so much we got a few pics of the 2 of us. Last Summer I traveled to Gay Parita with the Mopars in May group. Gary is always welcoming, telling stories of the people he’s met over the years, and stories of building the garage. I will miss him greatly. His gentle kind ways, his knowledge and his smile.

  16. Gary never anticipated the celebrity his little gas station on the Mother Road would bring him… he just thought of himself as a simple man with lots of friends. He was kind and generous, and have a keen sense of humor and great wisdom. He will be missed.

  17. My son and I spent a couple of hours with Gary during a “5 minute” photo stop at Gay Parita back in April 2009. It turned out to be the highlight of our entire Route 66 trip. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. Vaya con Dios amigo.

  18. What an amazing man he was .. we met him on our route 66 trip in 2010 we came all the way from Australia .. so sad to here of his passing thoughts go out to his family !!

  19. Rencontré en 2011 lors de notre trip, nous avons toujours le tee-shirt qu’il a offert à Véro pour lui avoir soigné la coupure sur sa main,un moment magique. Nos pensées accompagne sa famille. Philippe et Véro

  20. Rest in Peace my good buddy, we will miss and will always be your girls in Kansas !
    Hot dogs and day old bread! Renee Charles

  21. My wife and I met Gary and his wife last year and yes a 15 minute tour turned into a fast three hours. Sports Illustrated had just finished a bathing suit edition at the gas station and Gary was feeling his oats.

  22. My husband and I met Gary and Lena on our honeymoon in Sept 2012. Indeed a quick photo opportunity turned into an hour of stories and laughs. Absolutely marvellous and a true highlight of our trip. We never drank the root beer he gave us…it sits on our kitchen windowsill to remind us to always be hospitable. Thank you Gary for your legacy.

  23. First time on his property I knew I was gonna have a friend for life. We always supported one another in trade of collectibles to retail goods. I loved the Old Sinclair oil company things as he did. He put together one of my favorite roadside attractions for the ever curious Rt66 adventurer. May he rest in peace and always be remembered as a friend for life!

    1. Hi Greg,
      I just heard about Gary and I am so sad.
      He was the highlight of my tour in 2013. I happened to be there at the weekend of the 66 Festival in Joplin. We had so much fun, Gary got me a motel room near Joplin and shared water melon and stories with us. Even though Paula at the motel had told me that Gary was sick I was devastaed when I read the news about his death.
      I bought some souvenirs from him – and at the festival from you – and now these things will have a special meaning for me.
      I hope you are in good health and keep traveling Route 66.
      Tina from Germany

  24. This is a tragic loss for Route 66. I extend my deepest and most heart-felt condolences to Gary Turner’s family. I’d stopped at Gay Parita on all three of my Route 66 adventures. Never on Route 66 had I received the gracious welcome that I got from Gary and his daughter on those hot June afternoons — not to mention the touring tips! Gary Turner truly embodied the Spirit of Route 66 and we’re at a loss without him.

  25. To all of Gary’s family,

    me and thousands of people around the globe feel sorry for the loss of a special person,
    Even though I met Gary just once, he has left an unforgettable impression on me with his warm and funny personality. May he rest in peace and look down from Heaven with a smile on his face to his Sinclair Station. I hope that someone will carry on to keep it as a highlight of Route 66.

    Tina from Germany

  26. 66R and the world has lost a great man. We met him last summer and we will remember him the reat of our lives. Rest in peace Mr. Gary.

  27. Gary will be missed greatly by my boys and I, We regularly stopped by for R66 rootbeer and stories on his latest visitors. It was such a joy to watch as he continued to add to the station. From just down the road: Cori, Wyatt and Garrett Dykes.

  28. Our thoughts to Gary’s family for your loss, and to all the future 66’s that won’t get to meet this wonderful man. Our 15 minutes turned into nearly 2 hours, 2 hours that we will never forget. RIP Gary.

    Steve and Judy, Australia.

    1. La route 66 vient de perdre de nouveau une légende.
      Par deux fois j’ai eu la chance de m’arrèter chez Gary et à chaque fois j’ai eu de la peine à repartir.
      En 2010 j’ai pris le café avec sa femme et lui sous la petite tonnelle et cela reste un moment magique.

  29. Hello I am Piglet with baca and we would like to set a table in your parking has a porker stop. Please call me at 417 229 4448

  30. Just read about Gary’s passing and I am saddened because of it. My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family. I met Gary 8/2009 as I was driving to Texas-spent about 4 hours with him….the best four hours I can remember spending with anyone anywhere and I am a better person because of that time. I am sure heaven is a better place with Gary’s entry.

  31. 🙁 I know it is 2 years later… However we are planning another big trip and I was remembering fondly my most Favourite part of our 2 month long drive in 2013. Meeting Gary.. The cold Root beer , the funny and informative stories.. How he scared the kids with stories about monster size rattle snakes … Rip amazing inspiring man.. will never forget the impact you had on our Lifetime trip… xo

  32. Every so often as a person travels thru their life here on earth you hear or read about a person who you do not get to meet. For me, one of these was Gary Turner. Just by reading what others had to say about him makes me feel as if I knew him. May he Rest in Peace and may God find a cold Root Beer quite often for him !!!

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