Gilbert Garland leaves a legacy
Last updated 10/13/2023 at 8:13pm | View PDF
Gilbert Garland was a pillar in the community, having been a part of the Wasco Recreation and Parks District Board for over 25 years and coaching for nearly 60 years. He passed away in June of 2021 but will be forever remembered for his dedication to the community of Wasco and the countless youth he served.
At the Wasco Recreation and Parks District board meeting last week, Garland received a certificate of recognition from Congressman David Valadao. His wife, Janice, accepted the award on his behalf.
Born in 1940 in Oklahoma, his family moved to Wasco when he was 2 years old. He stayed here for the rest of his life.
Garland was a loving family man and was married to Janice for 61 years. They met at Wasco High School when she was a freshman, and he was a sophomore.
Together, they had three children: Lori, Debbie and Jeff. He was a grandfather of eight and a great-grandfather of seven.
"He was a fantastic husband, father and grandfather'"
Janice said, "He had a very outgoing personality and truly liked helping people."
His daughter, Debbie Mehlberg, said he loved giving his time.
"He was passionate about it. It was his character. It was important to give of his talents and to give back. That is something he taught us, too. That is why we are all so involved. It was more by example than by his words."
Garland coached many teams over his years of service, including t-ball, Little League baseball, recreation softball, high school summer league softball, Wasco High softball, women's slow-pitch softball and men's slow-pitch softball.
He coached the Wasco High softball team for 32 years. Throughout his coaching, he worked with hundreds of athletes, including his children and grandchildren.
Garland was a man of faith. "He was a Christian and instilled that in us to believe in God," Mehlberg said.
Garland had an illustrious career as a Kern County Fire Department firefighter and was stationed in Wasco for 25 years. He worked long hours, but enjoyed the flexibility being a firefighter allowed for.
"He was hired in 1970 and received awards from the City of Wasco. He was also firefighter of the year in 1993 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars here in Wasco," Janice said.
One of the things he liked to do was golf with his friends. The family also owned a trailer and would enjoy traveling around the state, taking trips to Pismo Beach, and camping in Oregon.
"That is what we did most when our kids were young. He loved the Dodgers and would go to ball games," Janice said.
As a public servant, he was praised for his tireless work helping youth and was inducted into the WHS Hall of Fame. This year, a bench was dedicated to him in his honor at the Wasco Little League Field.
"He and his father helped to build the field. There were other men, but they were two of them," Mehlberg said.
Sharon Sharp, also a board member for the WRPD, shared, "Not a board meeting went by without someone turning to him at least once and asking for a history on a park, project or program."
He was an integral part in the construction of the skateboard park, the t-ball field, the development of the softball fields at Cormack and Westside parks and the soccer fields at Annin Park.
Sharp said Garland was always checking on the parks and providing feedback.
"We are still completing projects he helped start. We speak of giving back, but he truly embodied that in a lifetime of service, we could all hope to emulate."
She added that Garland mentored and coached generations of Wasco kids, many of whom coach today.
"He left his imprint in our town and on our youth, training, teaching and inspiring, and now this bench will be a tangible remembrance that honors his selflessness and hopefully generates many conversations and stories about him in the years to come."