True Love Never Dies: Remembering Tammy Dykes |

True Love Never Dies: Remembering Tammy Dykes

Lisa Gavon
Special to The R-C

She was crazy in love with him, and would talk for hours about his intelligence, insights, and work ethic, but especially about how handsome he was.

Tammy considered Gary Dykes “the most eligible bachelor in Carson Valley.” At the time I thought her never-ending smile was because of this new love. As the years went by, I found that Tammy always had that same smile, no matter what happened. She embodied true joy.

Tammy and Gary were introduced to each other by a mutual friend at the Genoa Bar. For Tammy, it was love at first sight. Tamra Tierney was born in Dearborn, Mich. and moved to Carson Valley after her two brothers relocated here. When her father died, her mother came out too.

Gary was raised in Danville, Calif., joining the Army right out of high school. After his service, he attended UNR, completing his degree at Saint Mary’s College in California. Gary had been working at his father’s dental office since he was 15, and continued there full time once he graduated. Today he runs Gary Dykes Dental Lab in Gardnerville.

Gary and Tammy purchased the historic Jud house that was originally built in Virginia City around 1890 and brought to Minden in 1912. They moved the structure to their property near the airport in 1984.

When they met, he was active in the Genoa Volunteer Fire Department, Kiwanis Club, and also maintained bee colonies up and down Jacks Valley Road. He is skilled in the art of falconry.

Realizing her dream, Tammy and Gary were married. When she became pregnant with their first daughter, Carah, she was ecstatic. Her smile was even brighter. They lived behind the Taylor Barn in Genoa. She and I were friends who lived within walking distance of each other. As young mothers we had an idyllic life, centered around our children.

Gary and Tammy purchased the historic Jud House that was originally built in Virginia City around 1890 and brought to Minden in 1912. They moved the structure to their property near the airport in 1984. Along with adding solar panels, they installed a wind generator and existed entirely off the grid. Tammy had no problems living in this alternative fashion, always having complete confidence in Gary and his ideas.

They sent their children to local schools and educated them at home according to the individual needs of each child. Tammy helped found the Carson Valley Homeschooling Group, along with being very involved with her church community at Calvary Chapel.

A chimney fire destroyed their airport home, but even then Tammy was at peace, finding a house for the family on Douglas Avenue. Gary has always been more of a wilderness man, and at first he rankled at the idea of moving into town. But Tammy’s intuition had directed her to the most perfect choice. Since Gary’s workshop was behind their house, they spent nearly 24 hours a day together. Most don’t have such a true connection happen even once in their lifetime, and Gary feels fortunate.

They bought property at Topaz Lake, hoping to open a place for people to stay, and to host weddings and events.

Just this month, Gary has realized that shared vision and unveiled the Topaz Resort, currently with five rental units. They are listed on Airbnb. It is what he and Tammy wanted to do from the beginning.

Their oldest child, Carah, and her husband, Jonathan, are both veterans and have been married 13 years. Carah has a degree in business management, and together they run a successful software consulting firm.

Their first child, Eleanor, was born in Italy, and their youngest daughter, Lillian, was a home birth. Following in her mother’s footsteps, they have co-founded an inclusive secular homeschooling group: The Tucson Saguaro Suns.

Son Ben went to UNR on a scholarship from Don Bentley, and is now a manufacturing engineer manager at GE Oil and Gas. He has been married for 13 years to an assistant pastor’s daughter, Amanda, who is a brilliant writer. They have a daughter and a son, Isabell and Isaiah. They continue to attend Tammy’s church, Calvary Chapel.

Daughter Jenna received her master’s degree in child and developmental psychology in 2015 and is a teacher in Reno. She has a special gift in working with children, and they all just adore her. Their youngest son, Pierce, is in his senior year at UNR. He is studying for his falconry apprenticeship and raises birds in Gardnerville. Both Pierce and Jenna were born at home under the care of local midwives. All their sons and daughters exhibit the faith and values instilled in them by their parents.

Tammy’s first priority was always her children, and she devoted her whole life to others. She had the remarkable ability to really listen to what other people said.

She did not give advice, but instead showed it by the way she lived. She was not extravagant in any way, requiring very little to maintain her happiness. Tammy seemed never to worry, since she was a woman of unflinching and pure faith.

After I moved to Alpine County, Tammy and I lost touch. Both of us were busy with the demands of educating and raising our children. But anytime I would run into her at homeschool events or at the store, she made me feel like I was incredibly important to her. She would always invite us to swim at the house. “Anytime! Just come over!” she would say.

When I walked in the door at her funeral, I found that I was not the only person she treated this way. The church was packed with people who had felt the warmth of Tammy’s love, compassion, and caring, and that she had made feel special and acknowledged.

Tammy was killed on a clear bright morning by an impaired driver reportedly going 108 in a 25 mph zone in the Gardnerville Ranchos. He slammed head-on into her car, and she died instantly. It was the morning of July 16, 2001. Tammy was 46-years-old. Sixteen years later, her smile has not dimmed in our thoughts, and the grief remains palpable and real.

After her death, Gary struggled to raise the two children still remaining at home without Tammy by his side.

The location of the house Tammy chose, with the workshop right on site, allowed Gary to take care of them while still providing for the family financially. Gary says it was like losing half your body, but he knew what had to be done to keep the family going. He put his head down and just did it. He has never remarried. He cherishes those 20 years he shared with Tammy as the happiest time in his life.

Gary is a practical man, and along with their children, he strives to live each day to the fullest, just as Tammy did. She was always 100 percent present and never in a rush. It is something unusual in our society, and it made her stand out. She was a woman who was at peace with herself and her life.

Gary is just finishing work on a big 27-foot boat where he plans to live. He is ready to be out on the water everyday. He loves to fish, and has built an on-board dental lab. His idea is to make teeth for people whereever he docks, from the Gulf and Caribbean to Alaska.

But the sorrow of this great loss to his family, and to our community, always stands sentinel in the background. These memories will never go away, but remain close. The family has processed what happened, without focusing on anger or regret. They know Tammy never would have wanted that for them.

Gary didn’t sleep for days after she was killed, but as Tammy taught us all, there is no benefit in being miserable or vegetating, but rather to appreciate both what has been and what is right now.

It may be all you can do to move forward and attempt to fulfill your responsibilities, but whatever the hardship, Tammy always reflected a gracious acceptance and an intense gratefulness. The family shares stories of her with each other, and with their children to joyfully keep her memory alive.

Tammy Dykes lived her life well, and her light still shines in the hearts of all who knew her. Thank you Tammy. We all miss you here in this Valley.