Gary Milo Ridley, 77, of Yukon, Oklahoma, passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, at 9:50 p.m. in Oklahoma City, surrounded by his loving family when he passed on to Heaven.
Gary was born on Sept. 29, 1945, to Margaret Elizabeth and Milo Ridley in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Luther North High School in Chicago. Even though Gary was a native of Chicago, he was affectionately known to many as an accomplished “Okie,” who fell in love with Oklahoma, his future wife Eula and transportation. Gary and a lifelong friend, Jim Sim, were on their way to Washington state by way of California for some fun first, when he took some odd jobs in Oklahoma to get ready for the trip while staying with his sister Judith Ann Hodge in Perry.
Oklahoma was a much better place for Gary’s change of heart in making Oklahoma his forever home.
Gary married Eula in 1966 and dedicated his life to her, the family and Oklahoma transportation and stayed involved in improving transportation until the very end. Gary and Eula had three children; their first child, Josephine, passed away soon after birth and then they had Daphne and Joe.
Gary had many hobbies, loved sports and followed many teams, including his Chicago Cubs, OSU Cowboys football, OSU basketball, turkey hunting with Joe and others. He also coached little league baseball, coached and refereed basketball and umpired baseball. But what brought the most joy to his heart was arranging and taking annual trips with his beloved grandchildren, from Yellow Stone Park – one of his favorite trips with them – to another in Canada. These trips proved to be an extreme bonding time and he and Eula enjoyed them tremendously.
Gary was known as the “dean of transportation” in the inner circles because even after retirement and when away from the state, he was always consulted on all things transportation and beyond. He was well-respected and revered locally, nationally and by anyone who crossed his path.
He started working at the Department of Transportation in Perry, Oklahoma, in 1965 as an equipment operator, and he continued to move up in the department ranks as maintenance superintendent, traffic superintendent, field maintenance engineer, division engineer, assistant director for operations, director and ultimately secretary of transportation, the highest ranking in Oklahoma of any other transportation position. Gary gave his all to every job he had and with his wit, hard work, wisdom and can-do attitude achieved the highest rank in transportation, which was unprecedented.
The list of accomplishments during Gary’s tenure at ODOT and later the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, is very long but among his biggest were several landmark pieces of legislation that improved sustained funding for transportation in an apolitical way. He also made sure that those funds were spent prudently, through the 8-year construction plan to improve infrastructure needs starting with structurally deficient bridges.
He was called on nationally to testify before Congress on several occasions as an expert in transportation and became a credible source for many nationally. He worked closely with many Oklahoma governors, U.S. senators and representatives, state legislators, elected officials and appointed representatives, to bring about change to Oklahoma and garnered the respect of all who he worked with.
While his accomplishments at ODOT were many, the compassion, hard work while having fun and sense of family he brought to the department will be remembered for years to come.
Gary was a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Oklahoma. He was also a member of St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church in Yukon.
Gary is preceded in death by his parents, Margaret Elizabeth Ridley and Milo Ridley; an older brother, Tommy Ridley who died as an infant; his daughter, Josephine Ridley; and an older sister, Judith Ann Hodge.
He leaves behind his bride of 56 years, Eula Faye Ridley, Yukon; daughter, Daphne Burnett of Yukon; son, Joe Ridley and daughter-in- law Bonnie of Weatherford; grandchildren, Monica Burnett of Yukon, Caleb Burnett of Yukon, Bryson Ridley and wife Morgan of Buffalo and Brooklyn Dozier and husband Greyson Dozier of Weatherford. He also leaves behind his beloved dog, Holmes.
He has numerous nieces, nephews and cousins primarily located in Perry and Chicago, as well as some other states in the U.S.
Gary will be remembered for his spirit of giving and his sense of family, his generosity, compassion, love of people, wisdom, knowledge, closeness to God, inclusivity, helping those in need and befriending those who needed a friend, to mention a few. He is missed dearly by his family and friends, but they are comforted in knowing he is pain-free now.
Viewing will be held 11 a.m.- 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, at Yanda & Son Funeral Home, 1500 West Vandament, Yukon, Oklahoma, followed by a Vigil service at 6:30 p.m. at St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church, 600 S. Garth Brooks Blvd, Yukon, Oklahoma. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 30, at St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church, with interment following at 3 p.m. at the Bohemian Cemetery, Perry, Oklahoma.
In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Memorial Fund, The Bohemian Cemetery of Perry, Oklahoma, or the Manna Pantry of Yukon.
Online condolences may be signed at www.yandafuneral.com. Arrangements are under the direction of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Yukon, Oklahoma.