Greg was born in Butte, Mont. While he was still young, the family moved to Spokane, Wash., where Greg spent the remainder of his childhood. Greg was an energetic kid who excelled at athletics and competed in track, cross country and wrestling. He also loved music and over the years taught himself to play the piano, guitar and ukulele. Dancing was a favorite family pastime as his parents were accomplished ballroom dancers who enrolled all of the children in dance classes.
Greg graduated from North Central High School in Spokane and went on to earn a B.A. in education with a major in industrial technology from Eastern Washington University. He did his student teaching in the Mead School District and worked as a substitute teacher at Mead Middle School and Mead High School. He attended the University of Oregon in Eugene working toward a graduate degree in dance and fine arts, where he studied ballet and modern dance. Greg danced with a number of dance companies and also taught ballet and social dance. He especially loved finding a good social dancing partner.
In 1988, Greg moved to South Whidbey, Wash. Here he pursued his creative interests, especially singing and playing his guitar. He loved singing above all, feeling he could turn to a song in times of both joy and sorrow. He gave many concerts and participated in hundreds of musical events. Sometimes he sang “covers,” but often he performed extemporaneously, making up songs which perfectly fit the occasion or the person being celebrated. His sisters told stories of times when Greg would visit their classrooms while they were teaching, ask the children to write something about themselves and then compose a song which included each child’s writing. The children were in awe.
Greg was the “go-to guy” for sound systems. If you were performing or recording, Greg could help you. He worked with sound and recording for many years at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts as well as in other studios and venues. One of his favorites was the Open Circle Singers where he did the sound and also sang.
Greg was a skilled carpenter, wood worker and furniture maker. He was the kind of guy who could fix anything and often volunteered to help others with this skill.
Greg was intense, idealistic, creative, passionate, feisty, loving, athletic, hard working, independent and thrifty to a fault. He had a great sense of humor. Greg had a passion for personal growth and for delving into his emotional world. He belonged to two men’s groups which offered him much support and solace. He was also a singer and facilitator for personal growth workshops and conferences. He was a beautiful presence in our lives.
Greg’s death has left a bigger hole in the South Whidbey community than he could ever imagine when he was alive. Greg spent so much of his life singing about love and connection, giving community service and help to his friends, and seeking relationships where he felt seen and held. Especially in recent years, his search for love, peace and contentment seemed to elude him more and more. In the end, the pain won out and he took his life. His community is grieving the loss of one of their own, and the inevitable regrets that somehow we couldn’t keep him and that perhaps our loving of him fell short.
The hope is that he is now surrounded by love and is finally at peace.
Greg’s parents Percy and Violet Garbarino predeceased him. He leaves behind his sister Dianna and her husband David Harvey; sister Cheryl and husband David Wood; sister Linda and husband Doug Reed; three nieces, Jennifer (James Walker), McKenna Reed, and Mary (Joe Berry); and two nephews, Dylan Reed and Nathan Harvey. Greg is also survived by great-nieces Annabelle and Abigail Walker, Aushia Bemis and Mali and Lamai Ray. Greg was a beloved uncle to Jen when she was a girl and her mother, Dianna was a single mom.
The family expresses its sincere gratitude to his community, friends and his men’s groups as well as The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, The Healing Circle and The Whidbey Institute.
Instead of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, wicaonline.org, The Whidbey Institute, whidbeyinstitute.org, or Healing Circles, healing circleslangley.org.
A memorial service is planned in Butte, Mont. this summer.
A memorial website where we can share tributes, photos, videos and audio of Greg’s music is www.forevermissed.com/greg-garbarino