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Gary Alfred Lytle, Santa Rosa businessman and avid golfer, dies at 70

Gary Alfred Lytle

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

Gary Alfred Lytle was a beloved father and husband who owned Hobart Sales & Service, a kitchen supply business. He also was a gifted golfer who coached the Cardinal Newman High golf team to a state championship.

Lytle, who died March 7 at the age of 70, was a straight shooter who believed that the best way to succeed in life was to do what you said you were going to do, his sons said.

“My dad, at 6'5” with piercing blue eyes, had a smile larger than life,” said his son, Steve Lytle of Santa Rosa. “He was the guy you wanted to be with; you knew through his magnetism that he was going to be the heart of every conversation.”

Lytle's path wasn't easy. Born in Fortuna, he lost his father at a young age. When his mother remarried, Lytle learned his work ethic laboring in a Santa Rosa junk yard and used car shop owned by his stepfather, his sons said.

He earned a pilot's license at age 16. But two years later, his mother, stepfather and sisters died in a plane crash.

“His whole family was wiped out, other than a brother overseas in the Army,” said his son, Greg Lytle of Santa Rosa. “That tragedy was really what drove his need to be successful. . . . Everyone was gone, so he started from scratch.”

He found work at a gas station in Santa Rosa and, while selling a wiper blade to a customer, was offered a job as a salesman at Hobart, the commercial kitchen supplier.

On one of Lytle's first sales trips, he was sent to a meat store in Eureka to install kitchen equipment. That's where he met Julie, who was working at the checkout counter.

“My father fell immediately, instantly in love, and 3½-weeks later they eloped to Reno.”

On the way there Lytle, 18, sold some kitchen equipment, and talked his boss into letting him keep the commission to pay for the marriage license and hotel.

Lytle became the owner of Hobart of Santa Rosa in 1968, and later turned ownership over to his sons, who started in the business as janitors.

When his sons were at Cardinal Newman and their golf coach fell ill, Lytle, an avid golfer, took over the role and led the team to the state championship in 1982[.

“Dad stepped up to the plate with two kids on the team, as well as Mom as the team mom,” Steve Lytle said.

He served as president of the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club where he was a member for 37 years, as a board member at the Lahontan Golf Club in Truckee and as president of Bennett Valley Men's Golf Club.

Lytle also enjoyed duck hunting and was a lifetime member of the California Water Fowl Association and Ducks Unlimited.

Lytle never retired, working until his final days. Even during his sickest moments in the hospital with heart disease and kidney faiure, he made sure his wife and sons were having a good time.

“He just wanted to be your friend,” Steve Lytle said. “And if he was your friend, he would do anything for you.”

Lytle is survived by his wife Julie of Santa Rosa, sons Greg of Windsor, Steve of Santa Rosa and Dan of Santa Rosa, brother Mike Lytle of San Jose, five grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be at held 2 p.m., March 24 at at Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club, 333 Country Club Dr., Santa Rosa.

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