Born and raised in Hancock, Gary was the third of six children. His parents, Oscar and Jesse Breakall, owned a flour mill in town, and that later became a feed mill and small grocery store.
Shirley Hawbaker and Gary, who played basketball and soccer, were in the same class in high school and started dating during their sophomore year.
He met Shirley, who had gone to school through the eighth grade at a one-room schoolhouse near Mercersburg, Pa., when she moved to Hancock to live with her sister and her family for her high school years.
The couple were married for more than 58 years and had four daughters and seven grandchildren.
Gary was involved in whatever Shirley volunteered to help with when their own children were in school. They were co-presidents of the Hancock High School PTA, band boosters and Girl Scouts.
“He helped with everything,” Shirley said.
Even though Gary wasn’t in the Hancock Rotary, their family was the first in Hancock to sponsor an exchange student through the organization. They hosted students from Mexico, South Africa and Italy.
His father had died in 1950 and Gary and his siblings worked in the family business. After high school, he worked there until his mother decided to close the business in 1961.
In 1962, Gary was hired as a substitute carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Hancock. He then worked in distribution and as a window clerk starting in 1966 before being appointed postmaster in 1983.
“He received notes that said it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” said daughter Tina Riesett of Baltimore.
The Breakalls lived in a house across from the post office until they built a home outside of town in 1971.
So that other postal employees wouldn’t have to work, Gary volunteered to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Through his work for the postal service, Gary “knew everybody and they knew him,” Tina said.
“When I’d say I was going to drop a note to somebody, he still knew the addresses,” Shirley said.
He also knew who was in need, and even though the Breakalls had plenty of firewood on their property, Gary would buy firewood from a needy family to help them out, Tina said.
“I think he helped a lot of people,” she said. “He did a lot of things for people, but they were done quietly.”
“If we had four oranges, we gave two away. That’s the way it was,” Shirley said. “We didn’t have a lot, but we had plenty.”
Gary retired in 1992 after more than 30 years of service.