Andy Gajda killed in crash 0
Andy Gajda’s car on the left, veered into Kelly Yantha’s truck on Round Lake Road just north of Highway 60. Yantha suffered no broken bones from the accident and has been released from hospital.
Andy Gajda, a well-known resident of the Killaloe area, died Friday.
His car veered across Round Lake Road just north of Highway 60 and ran into another car driven by Kelly Yantha.
Several people who quickly came to the scene of the accident say they believe Gajda had a heart attack before the accident.
Although both vehicles were severely damaged, Yantha did not suffer any broken bones or concussion, and she has been released from hospital.
Gajda, 68, was born in Ottawa and first came to the area as a young boy, when his parents, who were Polish immigrants, bought a cottage on Wadsworth Lake; Gajda spent his early summers there.
He then pursued a career in science, studying biology and chemistry at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) in Montreal, and at the University of Ottawa in post-graduate studies.
He went on to teach at the college level in the United States, and also worked for major laboratories. He lived in California, Arizona, Arkansas, and most recently in North Carolina, where he headed a blood work laboratory with over 100 employees.
However, according to his brother-in-law Edwin Echavarry, he always knew he wanted to return to this region, and on his retirement in the 1990s, he bought a large farm off Highway 60 near Old Trestle Road, where he looked after his mother Irene until she moved to Valley Manor. He also immersed himself in the life of the community.
Gajda became an active member of the Killaloe Lions Club, and according to president Jim Homer, was a constant volunteer at community events. He prepared hot dogs during Sno-Fun activities such as the broomball tournament, as well as at the annual Canada Day soap box derby races. He helped with the Santa Claus reception, and collected money for the July 1 fireworks displays. He often worked the bar at Lions Hall functions, and assisted in the renovations of the hall, including its recent painting.
“You could count on Andy when a worker was needed,” Homer said. “He gave freely of his time, and made an effort to help whenever and wherever he could.”
Gajda also assisted with other community endeavours. He often prepared the Seniors Friendship Centre monthly lunch, and led the first class of the Community Resource Centre’s “Cooking without the box” project, teaching people how to make affordable and healthy meals by cooking from scratch. His love of good cooking and community outreach was also evident when he helped set up several Lions Club community dinners.
Gajda also developed a product line of pickles – Andy’s Wicked Pickles – and could be found most Saturdays at the Hoch Farm market at his vendor’s booth, selling his wares and telling stories. Lynne Postill, the market supervisor, remembered, “He was an outgoing and friendly vendor, always helping when he could. We will all miss his unique style and unique pickles.”
Echavarry echoed this.
“Andy was a great story-teller,” he said. “He could embroider a tale with a plethora of detail and throw in entertaining additions which made the tale come alive.”
Echevarry also noted Gajda’s love of dogs and his fondness for travel; he was a frequent winter visitor to Mexico.
“But above all, he was community-oriented, based on his love for the Killaloe area,” he said.
There will be no funeral or viewing. However, Echavarry stated, “His last wish was that there be a party when he passed – and there will be."