Susan Oelze on Her Late Husband Gary: “I Was Very Lucky”

(Photos courtesy of Susan Oelze)

Alexandria, VA – At The Birchmere’s poignant “Celebration Of Life” for beloved and revered owner Gary Oelze after his passing back in January at the age of 80, a vast plethora of people came from all around to eat, drink and honor his legacy at his legendary venue on that memorable evening.

What many didn’t expect was his still visible “presence” there that night, in the form of numerous realistically-made cardboard cutouts of him placed at the bar where he used to welcome attendees, at the podium where he announced patron’s numbers at every gig, in the main hall where he caught glimpses of his favorite musicians playing, they were all over the venue. And that was all because of the kind and caring efforts of his wife, his widow, Susan Oelze, whose exclusive interview is on Living On Music With Steve Houk on YouTube and major podcasts.

“About eight years ago, we were going to go to Florida to stay for ten days,“ Susan told Steve Houk on Living On Music. “Gary had never been apart from The Birchmere for more than two nights ever and was very concerned about being away. So I sent out all these pictures I’d taken of him to do these cardboard cutouts and had them put all around the Birchmere. I told him, ‘Everything is gonna be fine; it’ll be like you never left the building.’ Even so, I think we only spent five days down there before he simply had to return anyway. But I also had them placed here on that night when his life was celebrated, so he was still there for everyone.”

For many of his co-workers, musician friends, and longtime respectful fans, the spirit of Gary Oelze will never leave the Birchmere. But for someone like Susan, the sheer absence of her partner, her companion, and her best friend still leaves an especially stinging void. “During the day, sure, I’m OK because I own a business [Pilchard Designs Inc. in DC] and am busy running the company. But at night, yeah, it is kinda tough for sure.”

Yet even though some pain will likely linger for the rest of her life, her deeply felt gratitude for having at least ten years of marriage to Gary is clearly everlasting and plentiful.

“Even though it’s hard right now, I feel I was so lucky to have been married to somebody who was so amazing, treated me so well, and took such good care of me. And I learned a lot from Gary about how you treat people, especially how I watched him run the Birchmere and treat and take care of his employees. It was an amazing experience being with him. I was very lucky.”

Reminder: Hear more of Susan Oelze’s personal stories in her full interview on ‘Living On Music With Steve Houk’ on YouTube and all major podcasts.

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