A big man with an even bigger heart

KILLALOE – The people of Killaloe, and indeed, the Madawaska Valley will  miss the wonderful way of Andy Gajda, who passed away suddenly on October 5.

He was born on September 9, 1944, and grew up on the canal in Ottawa, always having a love for the area.
Through his younger years he was always ahead of his class, not only skipping ahead one grade, but two.
“He had a very intelligent mind, a very high IQ,” Edwin Echavarry, Gajda’s brother-in-law, said.
After Gajda graduated from university for science and a major in biochemistry, he spent a great deal of his time travelling.
With a love for sailing, he headed to the Caribbean, island hopping and travelling to as many places as possible before returning back to Canada.
Once he did return, Gajda went back to school and did his doctorate, eventually moving to Nevin, North Carolina for a job in a laboratory.
“Basically he ran a laboratory,” Echavarry said. “Andy supervised all of the persons who did all of the tests.”
With a wonderful mind full of intellect, Gajda always had some knowledge about every topic.
“He had a great intellect, you could ask him anything and he knew something about it. He was a great conversationalist,” Echavarry said.
After working in the laboratory, Gajda then retired and moved to a farmhouse in Killaloe, where he began to farm and volunteer.
“He always wanted to live in this area, he always loved this area,” Echavarry said. “After he retired he knew he wanted to come and get a hobby for himself, do some farming, and that’s what he did.”
The love for this region began when he was young, and his parents had purchased a cottage on Wadsworth Lake.
Each year, when school was out, the family would pack their bags, fill the car and spend the summer at their home away from home.
Many knew him as the pickle guy, selling his homemade pickles each Saturday morning at the Killaloe Farmers’ Market.
Others knew him from the work he did in the community, supporting the events big and small.
Or maybe they even knew him by his kind heart, always willing to help those in need.
But most knew him as a dear friend.
He was always one for sharing, whether it was the perfect place to garden, or his tables at the farmers’ markets in the area, Gajda had room for everyone.
This doesn’t surprise many, Gajda had a knack for volunteering, and that is not something that went unnoticed.
One thing Gajda always loved doing was helping others.
Ritsuko Honda would know that kindness firsthand; when she no longer had a tent over her head at the Wilno Farmer’s Market he jumped up, moved over and gave her room.
“He offered everything all of the time – he loved sharing,” Honda said.
Along with sharing, Gajda had the simple love for life, no matter if it was rocking out to the latest local band, or cooking in his kitchen; he simply loved it all and embraced it all.
Gajda was always embracing the community. If a new business came to town, he would march through their doors and be the first to introduce himself.
“He enjoyed the moment,” Honda said. “He was everywhere.”
During last Saturday morning Farmers’ Market in Killaloe, in place of Gajda’s usual array of pickles, sat glorious bouquets of flowers.
These flowers were displayed by Marie Baillant, and suggested by Maria Mayville, hoping they would bring remembrance of Gajda into everyone’s hearts.
“For me personally, he was the pickle guy,” Mayville said, who is the volunteer and project coordinator for KHR Volunteer Network.
Story continues in the October 10 issue of The Valley Gazette.