Gary 'Griz' Drylie was born in Covina and spent his youth in El Sereno and La Canada. Upon graduating from La Canada High School, he entered the Air Force in 1973 and began a career as a jet engine mechanic. His education continued in the service as a metals processing specialist. Throughout his career, he received training in various metal-working trades. The Air Force stationed Drylie at George Air Force Base in 1981 and he's been a High Desert resident ever since.


He called Pinon Hills home while raising two children, Faith and Christopher, with his first wife of 23 years, Cheri. In 1986, they started two businesses in Phelan Express Graphic & Printing and the What Not Shop occupied their lives until 1991 when Cheri was diagnosed with cancer. Drylie made a shift in career after her diagnosis, going to work for the city of Adelanto, obtaining an 832 certification as a correctional officer and earning his teaching credentials in graphic arts and printing from CSUSB.


Cheri passed in 1996 and now being a widower, he returned to heavy maintenance in 1998 at California Steel in Fontana (the old Kaiser Steel Plant). He recounts meeting a beautiful Hesperia woman, Shelly, in September 2001. Their first date was a tribute to the victims of 911 at Victor Valley College.


"Just imagine on a first date, we are standing side by side, holding hands and singing, 'Oh beautiful for spacious skies..." Drylie recalled. With this first date experience, he decided to spend most of his time in Hesperia. Together, they reopened Shelly's Place Old Town in 2002 right next to her original location in the Old Dempsey Museum building built in 1958. He married Shelly in June 2003 and they continue to make their own history together.



Q: What do people not know about your job?


A: I'm one of the ISO/Safety Coordinators at California Steel (the Old Kaiser Steel Plant built in the early '40s). This is a great position for me because of my diverse background and willingness to further my education and learn new things.



Q: What is the best thing about your job?


A: Its diversity. I interact with all trades in site maintenance. My background is heavy maintenance and I have been a "Jack of All Trades," so it keeps my hand in all of them. I'm surrounded by very knowledgeable and experienced co-workers which offers me the opportunity to learn something new from those who have more expertise in several areas.



Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.


A: To live a long and happy life continuing to learn new things and having new experiences with Shelly, our children and grandchildren.



Q: What is your greatest accomplishment, professional or personal, to date?


A: This is an interesting and challenging question. When Shelly and I got together, we started sharing what we have done in the past and I spoke of racing sled dogs all over the west coast, hitting 10 major cities with a dog team promoting a Canadian beer called Yukon Gold, being a chamber president and heading up the largest community activity in Phelan (Phelan Phamily Phun Days). As I continued with a variety of things I have done, Shelly asked me, "What, are you 101 years old? Nobody could have done all that."



Q: Where would you like to be in 10 years?


A: Semi-retired, tinkering, "Work part time and goof off part time." Shelly has worked hard during her restaurant career and we want to be able to have the time off doing more leisurely things together.



Q: What is the source of your values?


A: My family. My maternal grandparents were an Los Angeles County health officer and a nurse. Grandparents on my father's side were a postal rail men and a house wife. My parents were a trucker-turned-commercial-plumber and an office administrator for a chain of convalescent hospitals. All this diversity afforded me a myriad of experiences to draw from and form my core values. One that is most important to me is from my mother. She did and still conveys honesty and willingness to answer any question that any of her children had. I strive to keep this value.



Q: What is your favorite quotation?


A: "Remembering and learning from our history is important for it shall shape our future."



Q: Tell us about your belief system.


A: I was raised Christian and through the Bible and Native American teachings later in my life, I built a closer relationship with God and realize his omnipotence and love for all his children.



Q: What motivates you?


A: A challenge to my mind and body. I have always needed or wanted this.



Q: What is your secret to living a happy, satisfying life?


A: Being true to myself and God.



Q: What is something you are particularly proud of?


A: Writing the Hesperia Book, and building The Hesperia Old Town Museum Collection, 16367 Main St. The museum collection started in Shelly's Place Old Town from just talking with people and collecting memorabilia, but became the foundation for being able to put the book together. The book was published by Arcadia Publishing and can be found at Bodacious Bundts, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Although the book is not a national best seller, it's been found on three continents and in several of the western United States.



Q: What are five things you can't live without?


A: I can put this into three: God, my family and honesty.



Q: What words of advice do you have for younger generations?


A: Get educated, learn a trade, be true to yourself and God, and learn from history for it shall shape your future.



Q: What is your passion?


A: To tinker and build things. Currently, I'm rebuilding and customizing my 1963 Chevy pick-up. Shelly calls it my Morph Truck or Frankentruck. It's a mix of my father's truck (1963) I learned to drive in, the engine out of my grandfather's car ('69 Chevy 350 four-bolt main), my father's '85 GMC for the updated brakes and suspension, utility bed and some upgraded safety features. It will carry the byline of being built on five generations of love and memories. Everyone from my grandfather to his great-great-grandchildren have something to do with this Frankentruck. This all stems from the last thing my son asked before he was killed July 30, 1989: He wanted to build a monster truck. This truck may not be a monster truck, but it's being built with the same love and pride that Chris and I would have put into it. I'm able to teach things to my daughter and grandsons that I wanted to with Chris.



Q: Tell us about a special vacation.


A: A trip in 1995 around the western United States and an Alaskan Cruise in 1996. Both events were very spiritual. I am big on commitment and family. The '95 trip was something I promised Cheri before she passed. But the '96 trip to Alaska was a surprise. My parents came to us in May of that year and said they were taking this cruise and wanted to know if we wanted to go, all we had to do is bring spending money. We asked Cheri's doctors if she could sustain the trip and they said they couldn't be certain her health would hold up. So the question was posed to Cheri, "You know that you may not be able to make the entire journey." She said, "Yes I do, but let's go." On that trip we were in Sitka and took a bus tour. Towards the end of the tour she told me she saw an eagle feather fall. She told me exactly where it had fallen. When we got off the bus at the ship, we had enough time that I jogged to where she described and the feather was exactly where she said. In the Native American ways and teachings, this is a very spiritual event. The feather was buried with her in July 1996, but her memory and that vacation will live in my heart forever.



Q: If you had three wishes, what would they be?


A: That I could have seen my son grow up he would have been 29 this year. This will sound weird, but losing him at 5 years old has strengthened me to deal with other trials and tribulations with in my life. God spared me any additional pain as there was not a mark on him from the car accident. When we had to identify him at the hospital, he looked like he was sleeping. At that point, I knew that he did not suffer and he was with God.



Q: Describe a special memory you have of Hesperia.


A: Meeting Shelly and her taking me into Old Town to show me where her first restaurant was back between 1984 to 1996. It was in an old dilapidated building that once housed the Jack Dempsey Museum. Later, we reopened Shelly's Place Old Town in 2002 right next door to the dilapidated historic Dempsey building.



Q: Tell us about the charities that are close to your heart and why.


A: "Relay for Life." My first wife and her mother passed of cancer, both my parents are cancer survivors since '88 and '89, a very dear friend of mine, Roland Westphal, has passed and my wife Shelly is a cancer survivor since 2005.



Q: How can readers reach you?


A: I'm easy to find as I am a local historian, I sit on the Hesperia Recreation and Park District Foundation and Shelly and I own Bodacious Bundts. I can be reached at oldtowngriz@verizon.net.


Who would you like to see profiled in an upcoming Q&A? Drop us a line at Editor@HesperiaStar.com.