Death was the only thing that could separate him from his beloved Caplan’s Army Store. Gary Ely, the long-time employee at the Railroad Street, St. Johnsbury store died Monday morning from heart-related issues. He turned 85 years old earlier this month. Yesterday marked the 69th anniversary of Ely’s start at the store. When he reached the 60-year employment milestone at Caplan’s back in 2013, he said he wasn’t interested in retirement. He said his only dream was to keep on working at Caplan’s. “The truth is I’d like to die right here; this is my life,” he said at the time. His last day at the store was Friday. He would have gone there Saturday, but he told his daughter, Anna Talbot, that he wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t slept well the night before. That led to a trip to NVRH where medical staff determined he had heart complications that needed further examination and intervention at a larger facility. No other big hospital in Vermont or New Hampshire could take him. Space was found for him at Baystate in Springfield, Mass. He was taken there by CALEX Saturday afternoon. Talbot spoke to Ely Sunday morning over the phone, she said, “He sounded great.” Then came a call later Sunday morning from the hospital. The doctors were contemplating what she called “aggressive catheterization” to address arterial blockages. Ely declined the procedure. Talbot said there was no guarantee that it would be successful. Members of Ely’s family, including his four children, went to the hospital that day. Ely was conscious and alert into Sunday night. He died at 8:15 a.m. Monday. “I was there for his last breath,” Talbot said.
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