Gary Max Hoffsommer, 83, Topeka: Feb. 28, 1938 – Jan. 6, 2022 – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Gary Max Hoffsommer, 83, Topeka: Feb. 28, 1938 – Jan. 6, 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. – Gary Max Hoffsommer, Topeka, Kan., went to be with our Lord and Savior on Jan. 6, 2022.

Gary’s family included his beloved wife, Karen, of 39 years, and daughters Michelle Hollenbeck, of Colorado Springs, Colo., Debra Young (Shane), Overbrook, Kan., and Lori Means (Mike), Berryton, Kan. He will also be missed by stepchildren, Brenda Flanagan (Gary), Topeka, Brad Berckefeldt, Grove, Okla., Heather Thomas, Bartlesville, Okla., and Erick Berckefeldt (Heather), Topeka. In addition, Gary was blessed with 23 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. 

Gary was born Feb. 28, 1938, in Topeka, to Paul K. and Irene V. (Roller) Hoffsommer. They preceded him in death. He was also preceded in death by his brother, Dean P. Hoffsommer, and his son-in-law, Fred H. Hollenbeck.

Gary attended Benham Elementary School and Highland Park High School. He then attended Washburn University and UCLA, earning degrees in physics, astronomy, and mathematics.

Gary worked in many exciting fields, including serving as WIBW 580 AM Radio’s master control operator (age 15), a flying research physicist for the Navy, and a senior project engineer for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Retirement was never his plan, he continued as an instructor for Washburn Institute of Technology, Allen Community College, online technology instructor, and the sole proctor-examiner for ETA International (Electronics Technician Association) in Kansas. Gary was also an award-winning substitute teacher for several area school districts.

Gary was a multifaceted maverick in communication and technology. As a teenager, he obtained his ham radio license and was initially known as W0QJC and eventually W0TI. In later years, he designed and manufactured telemetry systems for rural water districts across the nation, distributed two-way radio systems, harnessed wind electricity, and drove a series of early-model electric vehicles. His nightly skyline pictures were a common occurrence on KSNT-TV as well as KTKA-TV. 

As a close family friend always said, “If anyone had questions, Gary was the one to answer them. Before Google, there was Gary.” Gary, otherwise affectionately known to numerous school-aged students as “Gadget Gary,” inspired many students with his entertaining and thought-provoking science videos and live appearances. In years past, Gary was a volunteer bicycle officer for the city of Overbrook.

Gary, a self-taught professional bass player, was a member of the bands Southern Sunrise and Del and the Downbeats. Additionally, Gary played in Christian, country and polka bands (including at Shakey’s Pizza). Gary volunteered his time, serving as bass player in high school musical pit orchestras, stage, and pep bands. He also made sure that his daughters had private music lessons.

Gary was a successful author of two books: Reflections of a One Room Schoolhouse: My Life in the 1940s and the sequel, Reflections on Communication and Entertainment: My Life in the 1950s. Both books contain delightful, descriptive narratives of his many Topeka adventures as a child and into his late teens. Gary’s voice and storytelling expertise brought his experiences to life. Both books are available on Amazon.

Gary married the love of his life, Karen, in 1982, in Topeka. They built a beautiful home in the country near Overbrook, where family and friends were always welcomed. Four-legged friends were also near to Gary’s heart, as many times he had one or more of his dogs with him in the car when out taking pictures or on his daily two-mile walks. During Gary’s battle with cancer, Karen was his rock and never wavered in her devotion to him. She faithfully stayed by his side and was his constant source of positivity.

A celebration of life will be 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 14, at Grace Community Church in Overbrook, where Gary and Karen attended, and he volunteered his time to design and install their sound system when the church underwent its first expansion. Visitation will be 9:30 a.m. until the start of the service.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Gary M. Hoffsommer Endowment Fund at Washburn University, 1729 SW MacVicar, Topeka, KS 66604, ( The fund was established by the family to benefit the Physics and Astronomy Department.

Dove Cremations & Funerals Southwest Chapel is assisting the family. Condolences can be left at

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