September 10, 2015
Northland's News Center
Making a Difference: Mr. G and his famous leisure suit
Over thirty years ago, Dick Gastler's habit of wearing a ratty old leisure suit to class caught fire in more ways than one.
Mr. G's one-suit wardrobe gained national attention and helped fuel a unique fundraiser.
Now his former Denfeld High School students are returning the favor for a man who made a difference in all of their lives.
"They know I'm wearing it for some reason or another," said Gastler.
In 1984 Denfeld social studies and economics teacher Dick Gastler appeared on Good Morning America.
"I felt the good Lord said, Dick, wear the stupid suit, and maybe some good will come out of it and some good came out of it," said Gastler.
His 15 minutes of fame shortly after his students began to tease him about his outdated, green polyester leisure suit.
His response? Raise money to fight hunger and you can burn it!
The students raised 33 hundred dollars ... and the match was struck.
"An apple for the teacher-tradition. And this tree in Mr. G's backyard can pretty much represent his former classroom each apple signifying a student."
"He respected us even if we disagreed, you know, economics can be a polarizing thing, for sure now but you know even 30 years ago but and I definitely differed from him and I always still felt respected," said former student Patrice Critchley-Menor.
Mr. G was diagnosed with terminal cancer in June. He'll turn 80 in November Rather than plan for a birthday party, his family created a Facebook Page in his honor.
"Every day he looks forward to getting the paper, and getting the mail and what a great way to have people write to him and leave him a message," said Mr. Gastler's granddaughter, Ashley Fletcher.
His family has made a book of the letters and Facebook messages and Mr. G enjoys reading each one.
"Ha, ha ... he mentions where I used to sing to them when I thought they weren't doing well "because easier, the second time" and I think most of them knew the song," said Gastler.
"High school can be boring and economics is boring but he made us want to pay attention," said Critchley-Menor.
A fitting tribute to one of Duluth's most memorable characters.