Gary Lee Bartz

Gary Lee Bartz, 66, passed away Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at his home. The family will greet visitors Sunday, August 10, 2014 from 2-4 pm, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

Gary was born December 08, 1947 in Lawrence to Charlton and Ida Jean (Carr) Bartz.

He married Ellen Hornberger on June 7, 1998 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Together they raised her son, James “Jake” Dean Brown, Jr., Lawrence.

Gary graduated from Lawrence High School (LHS) in 1965. He was involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). As a sophomore he won a trophy in public speaking in FFA. His junior year he placed fifth in the district in the category of Farm Mechanic Skills. His senior year he was recognized by the DeKalb Agricultural Association as the Senior Vocational Agriculture Student of the Year at LHS.

Growing up he worked on the family farm with his father.

Gary married Nancy Ragle and they divorced in 1987. They had two children, Barbra Bartz, Lawrence, and Jennifer Bowman, Shawnee Mission, five grandchildren, Wendi Kessler, Ethan Bowman, Seth Bowman, Gage Bowman and Reese Bowman; two great grandchildren Aubrianna Wise and Jaden Wise; seven nieces and nephews; and six great-nieces and nephews.

He worked for Picken Auto Parts from 1966-1970. He worked for Mastercraft from 1970-1978 as a plumber before opening his own company, Kaw Valley Plumbing in 1978. The motto for Kaw Valley Plumbing was “Don’t sleep with a drip, call a plumber. “

Gary was also a founding member of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Committee.

Gary purchased Don’s Steakhouse from Don Scott, the original owner, and opened the doors on January 1, 1990. The motto was “We’ll meat you at Don’s Steak House and that’s no bull.” Over the years he fed the KU football and basketball teams, as well as catering Dick Schaap’s Super Bowl parties. He sent his ribs to many people he met over the years, including Joe Montana.

Due to poor health he closed the doors at Don’s December 30, 2007. He didn’t let his health stop him from helping his friends and neighbors fix something, removing snow or mowing lawns. On the day of his death, he sponsored an Angel Flight for a person travelling to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Gary was co-owner of Destinations Unlimited from 1995 to 2000.

Gary was co-owner of Bartz Brothers Fireworks since 1991. He also purchased a 90-acre sod farm that now farms soy beans.

Gary enjoyed KU and Chiefs football games and tailgating, travelling to Mexico and scuba diving, four- wheeling and golfing. He also catered the Class of 1965 Golf Tournament each year at Alvamar.

Gary is also survived by his wife, Ellen, his mother Ida Jean Bartz, Lawrence, one sister Janet (Jim)Trybom, Monticello, IL; one brother Larry (Lyric) Bartz; two sister-in-laws Ann Rogers, Stilwell, and Gayle (Greg) Daniels, Topeka and one niece and two nephews .


Visitation will be Sunday, August 10 from 2-4pm at Warren McElwain Mortuary. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Eagles Lodge Friday, August 15 from 6-10pm. Please bring your favorite picture or story about Gary to share.

Memorials can be to the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Committee or an online donation to Angel Flight Central at


20 Condolences

  1. Colette Roth on August 8, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Gary made me smile. I will always remember the way he treated people. My prayers are with all those that treasured him.

  2. Angie McCatrney/Dick on August 8, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Gary will be dearly missed by Family an friends. everyone that got to be a part of his life, were very greatful. his face an Humor could light up a room ever so fast. We all loved you Bartz. love Ang

  3. Larry Black on August 9, 2014 at 6:15 am

    So sorry for your loss, our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Gary and I go back to jr. high together and I like to remember all the good times we had together in FFA and just runnin around getting into mischief ! during our younger years ! So long my friend til we meet again!

  4. Valerie Foos on August 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Ellen, we were stunned to hear of Gary’s death. He was always fair and generous with us. Whenever we needed advice, especially business advice, we talked to Gary. He always provided practical, to-the-point examples. Our sympathy goes out to you and yours. We are proud to consider Gary a friend and mentor. He was a great source of knowledge and humor and aid to Craig and me. We are so sorry to miss the visitation Sunday, but the Ohio grandchildren are in town and there is a family gathering in Overland Park. Know that our thoughts are with you and that we will help you however we can if you need it. Just contact us. Much Love, Valerie and Craig Foos

  5. Barbara Blevins on August 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Gary was one of my most favorite people. I will sincerely miss him.

  6. Bill & Kim Salmon on August 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Bartzy was a great person who will truly be missed!! We will never forget how you both made us feel so welcome when we moved to Lawrence. We certainly have had many laughs. We are truly blessed we were able to see Bartzy this past February. Love, Bill & Kim

  7. George and Cheryl Hunsinger on August 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Larry and family: We were saddened to hear of Gary’s passing. I’ve known him and Larry since I was about 12. He truly was one of a kind and will never be forgotten for all he gave back to his community. If you helped him out, he always somehow returned the favorer. You folks are in our thoughts and prayers. God bless.

  8. Gay McDerrmott &Grandma Kathleen Murphy on August 9, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    We are saddened by the passing of this one of a kind gentle man! Loved him and hope the family can concentrate on the great memories he left everyone his life touched! He will be GREATLY missed!!!
    Your good friends, Kathleen & Gay!

  9. Judi and Richard McCartney on August 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    We were heart sick to hear about Gary. He always had a smile on his face,and made us laugh every time we saw him. He was loved by many and will be missed forever. We treasured his friendship and our thoughts go out to his family.

  10. RHONDA(KAMPSCHROEDER) ABLES on August 9, 2014 at 8:36 pm


  11. Gayla Carr Schmitz on August 9, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Barbra, Jennifer, and all the family–So sorry to hear about your loss. Prayers and thoughts for your family.

  12. Mike and Carol Cheek on August 10, 2014 at 8:40 am

    To all of the Bartz Family. Our hearts are saddened by the loss of Gary. He was a great neighbor and friend to us. Between he and Larry, our driveway has been plowed almost every winter since we’ve lived in this neighborhood. Just last week he was mowing for another neighbor. It seemed like nothing kept him still for long. He will be sadly missed by all his neighbors. The family will be in our thoughts and prayers. God bless you all!! What a great man.

  13. Keith Dabney and Family on August 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    To the Bartz Family. May God bless and keep you during this sad and difficult ocassion. My memories of Gary go all the way back to his Plumbing Company Kaw Valley Plumbing. My family and I often went to Don’s Steak House for meals and he always treated us so special. What a great man! He always did so much for others. My family and I will keep you all in our prayers.

  14. Holly Kerbel Jackson on August 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I am sad to hear of Garys’ passing. I have wonderful memories of Don’s full of way to much fun! Without Gary and Tammy I would not love the restutaunt buisness like I do. I will be praying for peace for all of his family through this rough time. Gary was a great teacher, friend, and man. I am blessed to have known him.

  15. jim otten on August 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Often you hear the saying that God broke the mold when he made someone, but it was Gary they were all talking about. You’ll always be remembered for the real “character” you were and how you always had a joke or a saying or just a great attitude that made everyone smile. Even in this sad time I find myself laughing remembering all the “Bartzisms” over the years and I know that’s exactly how you want us to remember you and honor your life. Mostly I’ll always remember what a kind and generous person you were and inspire all of us to be. The world is a better place for the years you were here and we’ll look forward to meeting again someday on the “back nine”. God rest nd keep you and your family. Jim and Vickie

  16. wayne & carol waisner on August 11, 2014 at 10:25 am

    we were in Iowa at the sprint car national races when we heard the news. due to rainouts they had back to back races on Saturday. we went directly to the visitation upon our return but did not have time to change clothes…as wayne said, Gary would not care in the least how you were dressed, just that you showed up. we were truly amazed at the attendance. it is very hard loosing a loved one and friend but to know how many peoples lives had been touched by that person has to be truly a blessing..our thoughts and prayers go out to the family but they now know just how special Gary was and how appreciated he was by so many people

  17. Bill Webster on August 11, 2014 at 10:39 am

    So sorry to learn about Gary’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
    With deepest sympathy,
    Bill Webster

  18. Bob and Marna Moore on August 11, 2014 at 11:25 am

    What a GREAT guy!! Gary was always on the front edge of most everything he did. Bob and Marna Moore

  19. Christina Case Harvick on August 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Gary was one of the nicest, funniest guys I know back home. He made Don’s Steakhouse a special place my family never tired of going on a weekly basis, and he was always such a presence wherever he went. Gary will be greatly missed. Prayers to you and your family.

  20. Larry Miskimen on August 16, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Gary will be missed by all.My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that new Gary and his family

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