The lengths Gary Mincolla would go to make a joke were remembered fondly in a Wrightsville Beach tavern last Friday evening, as the friends and family who gathered to mourn his unexpected death did so mostly through raucous laughter.
“He could find humor in anything he did,” said aunt Trish Alletzhauser. “He could make the ordinary thing so much better.”
So full of wit was the 36-year-old Wilmingtonian that some first believed it was a prank when hearing the news that he died after being struck and killed by a pick up truck on Carolina Beach Road at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve. There was a break in the laughter by the crowd of that had packed Jimmy’s Wrightsville Beach as they pondered the tragedy of how someone who was so joyous could exit the world so suddenly and unexpectedly.
“God’s love is powerful and creative. You still have to have your faith. God will make this into something that will bless those around us,” said Ashlyn Burke, a friend and former roommate of Mincolla.
How Mincolla dressed for his first day at a new job demonstrated his imaginative humor, said Alletzhauser. While he normally “dressed to the nines,” when he recently started a new job in infor, Mincolla instead wore a horribly mismatched outfit. When Alletzhauser questioned his fashion choice, Mincolla replied: “I told everyone there I was color blind. They’re too nice to say anything.”
Throughout the remembrance ceremony, friends and family regaled the audience with stories of Mincolla’s humor. And in some cases, they weren’t just meaningless laughs, as friend T.J. Dunn told the crowd.
Dunn, who despite his love for Wilmington had agreed to go with his wife to England for two years, said Mincolla’s laughter and wit helped calm a tumultuous time in his life.
“There was strife between my wife and me. He saved my marriage,” said Dunn, who described a visit Mincolla made to England where the two connected through humor. When Mincolla cracked wise about things like not being able to understand the local accent and getting caught in traffic circles, he eased the tension Dunn said he was feeling about living in the foreign country.
Another former roommate of Mincolla recalled when he used his charm to ease tensions during a standoff between two men. The roommate asked Mincolla why he was nice to the guy, who appeared ready to try to cause trouble.
“Gary replied, ‘Because everyone needs to feel like he deserves to be liked,’” he said.
Friends of Mincolla also recalled how he would often sing “This little light of mine,” including famously once in the middle of Wilmington’s Front Street. Following the lead of a guitarist, the crowd at the bar burst into the song.
One of Mincolla’s passions was helping to organize the annual SantaCon bar crawl, where revellers dress as Santa Claus or in other Christmas themes, traveling from bar to bar. Mincolla would play the Grinch, Alletzhauser said.
A GoFundMe to raise money for Mincolla’s final expenses has brought in nearly $5,000, exceeding the goal of $3,000. The additional money will be used to buy bikes for kids through the SantaCon event.