Gary Rider died last month, but will always be a legend to at least 50,000 people. In early 2021, the 57 year-old Pennsylvanian listed his air compressor on Facebook Marketplace. “Older air compressor, working as it should.i need a liver transplant.procedes go twords it,” read the post. A silly Facebook group named “a car club where everyone acts like boomers” saw the listing for the compressor, and instead of just poking fun at the guy as they normally do, members raised over $50,000 for the former welder, and basically crowned him their king.
Before I go on, a bit about this Facebook group. It’s basically a bunch of younger car enthusiasts humorously making fun of the Baby Boomer generation. For background, I’ll quote my introductory article Boomer Selling Air Compressor To Fund Liver Transplant Gets Huge Donation From Members Of Ridiculous Car Facebook Group That Makes Fun Of Boomers:
This whole group is a giant joke comprised of mostly younger car enthusiasts poking fun at old-timers and the hilariously predictable ways those old-timers navigate the automotive scene.
Among those predictable old-timer-isms are 1. A general lack of computer knowledge, often resulting in poor grammar and spelling in for-sale listings. 2. Antiquated views of car culture, often views that perpetuate gatekeeping of some kind. And 3. Overuse of the caps lock key.
The group’s “About” section pretty much sums it all up:
“BILT NOT BOUGHT!!!! You bet ter COME correct and ready to show us yor corvette,,, moopar or noocar!!!
Pontiacs suck lol,,,,,
....no commies thank u f or your sevis
keep posts CARR RELATED!!”
Incredibly, this ridiculous group of folks just having fun with Baby Boomer tropes actually made a significant difference in this world. Members shared Gary’s Facebook listing and began donating money to the Gofundme that his daughter had set up. The dollar figure rocketed to $38,900 by the time I wrote my story in May. Today, donations total over 58 large:
The comments on that Gofundme page are hilarious and mimic what you’d find if you visited the Facebook group, with many using the classic Boomer term “God bless,” but typing it in all caps and misspelling it, as old-timers tend to do when trying to figure out modern technology like “keyboards” and “the internet”:
The outpouring of support inspired Gary to become active on “a car club where everyone acts like boomers.” What’s hilarious is that Gary, the old-timer that he was, couldn’t help but write using the same mannerisms that the group had been poking fun at for so long.
Here’s Gary really leaning into the boomerisms calling his truck’s shifter cable a “pain in the ass,” talking about overheating his wife’s Chevy HHR, complaining about the cost of antifreeze, and saying “next time I piss in it get home open the petcock flush and one of the the 5 containers at home or two in the bed of the f. In truck.”:
Classic! It’s no surprise that pretty much every one of Gary’s posts garnered hundreds of rich comments:
Here’s Gary giving thanks to the group’s admins by offering them welded horseshoe art pieces (Gary used to be a welder before an accident left him on disability; you can learn more about that in my previous article):
Here are some comments on Gary’s post in which he thanked everyone for donating (the image is the compressor he had put up for sale):
Gary even announced his marriage on the Facebook page:
Here’s Gary calling out whichever “sombitch” or “peckerwood” stole his T-shirts:
Gary regularly posted to the group to give simple life updates. Here he is talking about a date night he had, and mentioning that his bathroom had two big holes that he still had to fix:
Here he’s just talking about his dog that had apparently recently been neutered:
Gary had become part of the 50,000+ member group — a binding force that brought folks together like never before. So it’s no wonder that, when Gary’s daughter Adriana posted about Gary’s death on December 27, the thousands of people from all walks of life who had crowned the Pennsylvanian their king were crushed:
Most members actually went OOC (out of character — i.e. not using all caps and acting like boomers) to offer support to Gary’s family:
I spoke with Adriana over the phone to learn more about the circumstances of Gary’s death. Here’s what she told me.
After offering my condolences, I asked Adriana about what happened.
“Dad went in to get the testing done to be able to start prelims for the transplant,” she told me. “and they found out he had COVID. So he had to quarantine.”
Gary was apparently not feeling great, and not eating like he was supposed to. “He fell in the kitchen; he was found unconscious.”
“My step mom [who had been at the store] found him and called the ambulance...Because he had COVID, my stepmom was not allowed to ride in the ambulance with him,” Adriana told me.
“He was responsive when he got to the hospital... [hospital workers] were able to have him talking and everything. While they were making sure he was okay, he ended up having a heart attack.”
“The doctor said that it was COVID complications...the strand that dad had, with his other medical conditions, with also getting ready for the transplant, his body was just worn down and compromised, and he just wasn’t able to recover from the heart attack.”
“One hour from when we found him [on the 27th]... I got the phone call that he had passed.”
Gary’s family had videochatted with him over Christmas. Since he was in quarantine, he was only able to spend time in-person with his wife.
What The Facebook Group Meant To Gary and His Family
I asked Adriana to tell me a bit about her family’s relationship with the Facebook Group. “Honestly, that Facebook group was a godsend,” she said, emotion clearly coming through in her voice.
“It started out as a way to try and raise money for dad for a transplant, and then it became a part of him. He loved going on there and talking to everyone,” she continued.
Gary — born December 30 1963, at the very tail end of the Baby Boomer generation — regularly told his family about the people he’d met on that page, and the cool things they’d done in their lives. “They basically became extended children of his. He was so happy that strangers just reached out and were talking to him and wanting to learn about his life.”
“The outpour of the group from him passing...me and my brothers, we didn’t realize that dad touched so many people.”
Adriana talked about how appreciative Gary was, and how he was always the kind of person to help people out. “With the money that was raised from the Gofundme...[Gary] ended up taking the extra...and he ended up helping people in the community that needed it.”
“He helped whoever needed it whenever they needed it,” she told me, saying his behavior was similar to what her family was seeing from the group in the wake of Gary’s passing.
“Everyone’s giving their condolences and everything, but...one of the women on there made our family a lasagna and a picture...it’s...” she trailed off, choking up with emotion. “It’s just heartwarming to see that people outside of our family truly loved him.”
“[Group members] meant a lot to him, but they also mean a lot to me and my brothers and my stepmom.”
“[My stepmom] is like ‘I never realized this many people loved him,’” she continued. “She was with him everyday seeing a lot of his transition to be able to do the transplant...we’re just trying to make sure we keep her in high spirits and seeing everything the group is doing is really keeping her happy in realizing that dad was loved.”
The Group Gave Gary Hope
Adriana, who sent me the two recent photos above, said Gary was scared he was going to die before things started with the Facebook group. “He didn’t know how he was going to get the money. And then, the past couple months, he was really looking forward to [the transplant].”
“He was not only like ‘hey this is going to save my life,’ but...He was like ‘I’m blessed to have this.’ He was very much a believer of God. He knew that God put this group there to be able to basically save his life and that’s how he was looking at it even on Christmas when I was talking to him.”
“He was just really happy about it, [saying on Christmas”] ‘I’m gonna be able to see my kids grow up more. I’m gonna be able to see grandchildren.’”
The family was shocked by Gary’s death, but is gradually working through the pain. “We know he’s in heaven with his mom and sister. Even though it’s sad for us, he’s with family up there.’”
When I spoke with Adriana last week, her family was still planning arrangements. Adriana said Gary wanted to be cremated; he’ll likely be spread between his parents’ graves. As of last Wednesday, she said the family was still working on the plans for some kind of virtual viewing for Facebook Group Members and family/friends.
Before we concluded our discussion, Gary’s daughter told me a fun fact about her dad. Apparently Gary used to own a business called “Rider’s Roasters.” Gary, a welder, sold hogroasters. “He would build them for fire departments to do their hog roasts,” Adriana told me. “All of our first jobs were in [Rider’s Roasters],’” she said about her and her three siblings, whom Gary had taught to weld, sand and paint.
I mention this because members of the Facebook Group, which I’m going to just call a cult given the sheer level of passion and dedication to the boomer schtick, frequently post the phrase “CRANK YOUR HOG.” This is a reference to cranking the throttle on a Harley Davidson, the official transportation device of boomers, and it may or may not be a double entendre, of sorts. After thousands of people on this Facebook group declared “CRANK YOUR HOG” all over the internet, it’s funny to learn that their king, Gary Rider, actually used to make hog crankers for a living.
If you’re still a little confused by everything, I understand. Here’s a group of people making fun of boomers, showing lots of love to a boomer. I spoke with one of the group’s moderators, Cody Belichesky to get his perspective.
“Honestly, I think part of it has to do with us seeing through the meme of acting like a technologically inept old person to see someone who needed help,” he began. “We laugh and laugh at the ‘school of hard knocks’ boomer archetype online, but seeing an actual older guy who was seriously down on his luck selling his equipment really spoke to us.”
“That working class boomer mentality and lifestyle that us presumably middle/upper middle class college educated millennials find such flesh for comedy with resonates. And that’s what we saw in Gary. Sure we laugh at that entire ‘class’ but he was a man hurting.”
From my own standpoint, this whole situation is a glimpse into the complex relationship between the Millennial generation and Baby Boomers. The internet is overflowing with Boomer criticism — younger folks describing how the older generations’ antiquated views on things like climate change, workplace etiquette and mobility, economic policy, borrowing, relationships and so much else has left younger folks with a huge mess to clean up.
But to some degree, this kind of thing is normal. Younger generations are always going to criticize the “old-school” way of doing things. The story of “a car club where everyone acts like boomers” and Gary Rider is a reminder that we should never mistake criticism of a way of life as a devaluation of the individuals leading those lives. All people have value, and — as proven by the relationships Gary built with people who had spent far too much of their free time poking fun at his entire generation — it’s amazing how much people with completely different lifestyles can have in common. And it’s amazing the bond they can form; but it all starts with a conversation. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t take a desperate air compressor sale from a man in need of a liver to get those conversations started.
RIP Gary Rider. Gobbless indeed.