MAYFIELD — Paul Schwartz saw Garth Wemple one last time at Stewart’s Shops on July 10.
It was like any other interaction he’s had with the community mainstay for much of his life. Schwartz, a former Gloversville resident, lives in San Francisco and spends each summer at his Mayfield vacation home.
“He was sitting in the booth there and I walked by and he goes, ‘Paul, you’re back.'”
Wemple, 80, died on July 13 following a series of cardiac issues at Ellis Medicine in Schenectady. For loved ones, including his wife and children, it was an unexpected course of events.
He’d probably hate this article, said Darcy Wemple, his daughter-in-law of about 50 years.
“He would have been like, ‘I don’t need that,'” said Darcy. “They don’t need to talk about me.”
And Garth didn’t hate much, mourners say. The lifelong Mayfield resident loved making new friends. Conversations with grocery shoppers, restaurant servers and passersby were a pastime.
Jon Close of Lakeside Drive in Mayfield remembers Garth as a “good egg.”
“He always knew everybody and everything,” Close said.
Noticeable was his wide assortment of bucket hats and playful nature. James Conyne, a family friend, remembers Garth as a source of wisdom and generosity.
“Garth was just that legend up there in Mayfield, Northville, Broadalbin and Gloversville,” said Conyne.
Garth was raised by John and Beverly Wemple, owners of a diner and gas station on state Highway 30 (they retired out of the business after winning $100,000 from the state lottery in 1971). He had one brother, Jerry Wemple, who died in 2017.
Upon graduating from Mayfield High School, Garth went on to sell used cars. He only started to distance himself from the business during the COVID-19 pandemic when the value of used cars soared and thus the supply diminished.
He gave up his license plates last year, but held onto his dealership license in case he found a bargain for family members. For years, his lot supplied a swath of the Wemples with vehicles.
As a businessman, Garth was lenient with customers. Sometimes he’d let customers drive off without paying.
“Whenever anybody needed anything, you know, like a used car or money alone and couldn’t get a loan from the bank, Garth was the guy,” Conyne said. “Everyone trusted him and it’s just sad to see he passed.”
Garth held multiple roles throughout his lifetime. He’d hold large scale antique sales on his lawn and flip houses across the area — long before such sales became commonplace.
Among his most prominent sales, he flipped the 233-year-old Rice Homestead to the Mayfield Historical Society, preserving all of its historic contents inside. Once it was turned into a museum, the businessman became a lifelong volunteer.
“He was definitely very involved,” said Mayfield Historian Sandy Town.
On July 20, the museum dedicated an old-fashioned ice cream social to the previous owner.
Food was also a pastime for Garth. He’d tell others at events that he wasn’t hungry and then proceed to devour multiple plates of grub. When finished, Garth was known to say, “That’s the best meal I’ve ever had.”
Of course, Garth had some dietary preferences. Specifically, he was fond of pickles on his burger.
“Even my daughter said the other day that she can’t believe he’s not going to walk in the [Ozoner] drive-in and say, ‘You got pickles. Where are those pickles? You need a drive-in burger, you need pickles on them,'” Darcy said.
Along with four children, Garth leaves behind 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
He will be laid to rest on Sunday. Calling hours are from noon to 1 p.m. at the Mayfield Presbyterian Church on North Main Street.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.