Gary Coxe died peacefully at his home in Provincetown on July 13, 2022. The cause of death, confirmed by his husband, Len Bowen, was late-stage kidney cancer. He was 66.
Gary was born to the late John and Ann Coxe on April 12, 1956, in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He grew up in a classic, conservative 1950s family of two boys and two girls in the small town of Berwyn, Pa. His father was “the town cop,” said Gary’s sister Darcy.
Gary was, by his own admission, a “wild child” who marched to his own music. He nearly failed to graduate from high school because he absolutely refused to complete his physical education credits. He thought better of it, however, and graduated from Conestoga High School in 1974.
Despite his family’s disapproval, he came out as gay when he was still in his teens and lived his truth proudly. His husband said that, when Gary was 16 or 17, he would take the train into Philadelphia to socialize at a gay bar, an early effort to escape small-town Pennsylvania and a censorious father. At that time and place, it was an act of extraordinary bravery.
Gary broke away finally in the early 1980s, when he moved to Hartford, Conn. A friend helped him get a job in the mailroom at the Aetna Life Insurance Company. He stayed with the company for many years, working his way up to the position of account supervisor for corporate clients.
“He had a great wit,” Len said, which helped Gary manage his corporate team deftly. He especially enjoyed flying to Aetna offices around the country, giving seminars on Aetna products and policies at regional employee gatherings.
Gary loved to travel with his friends, too, and later with his husband. He cherished memories from his early years of a cross-country road trip to L.A. with his friend Dan Dureiko. Because he was a flight attendant, Dan received free airline tickets, and Gary accompanied him on numerous trips.
Gary’s love of travel, said Len, did not make him particularly adventurous. “In a weird way,” Len said, “he was a man of the ’50s, very conventional.” Early on, his favorite destinations were in Western Europe. But Len introduced him to the Caribbean, and Gary fell in love with Vieques, Puerto Rico, where they traveled dozens of times over the years.
Gary and Len met in the early 1990s on the beach at Herring Cove. Their relationship blossomed over the next eight years, with Gary commuting every weekend between Hartford and Provincetown.
Toward the end of that time, the couple bought the Chicago House, a spartan bed-and-breakfast at 6 Winslow St., as a way, Len said, to ease Gary into retirement. After two years of commuting to run the B&B on weekends, Gary took a buyout from Aetna and retired in 2000, moving permanently to Provincetown.
“People just lit up when they saw Gary,” who loved the social aspect of B&B work, said Len. But Gary didn’t particularly relish the financial part of the business. A year after his retirement, they sold the Chicago House and Gary signed on as an agent for Harborside Realty.
Rather than selling, however, Gary took on the company’s rental operation, matching renters to properties and ensuring things ran smoothly. “The renters loved him,” Len declared.
Gary was a fine cook who did not have special dishes but could, Len said, “cook anything.” He loved reading, favoring gay authors and relishing mysteries. And he loved his trips to Puerto Rico with Len, which often also served as reunions with family.
Around town, he continued to enjoy Herring Cove beach, dining out, and attending the occasional concert. He was partial to jazz vocalists. “Gary was uniformly loved,” said Len. “He had a great wit, a winning manner, and befriended people easily.”
After Gary’s cancer was diagnosed, he and Len decided to marry in December 2021, to publicly and legally affirm the life they had been sharing for more than 25 years.
Gary was comforted in his final days by his husband and his Arkansas family. Loving care in his final weeks was managed by the VNA hospice. Len is especially grateful to the rector of St. Mary of the Harbor Episcopal Church, who arrived 20 minutes after being called to give Gary the last rites.
He is survived by his husband, Len Bowen of Provincetown; his beloved sister Darcy Kline and husband Steve of Springdale, Ark.; his favorite niece, Taylor Kline McNabb, and husband Jason of Bentonville, Ark.; and their son, Jackson McNabb.
Gary was predeceased by his sister Kim Coxe and his brother, John F. Coxe Jr.
Plans for a memorial service have not yet been announced.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to TheLilyHouse.org.