Gary Bracken, Tele-Communications Inc.'s longtime comptroller and executive vice president, died of a heart attack in Denver on April 23. He was 61.
Bracken, who was stricken after working out at a health club, was considered a member of the "core group" that built TCI into the nation's largest MSO over three decades.
"He was just a wonderful man," said former TCI executive vice president of corporate communications Lela Cocoros. "He was a kind, compassionate, understated man who wanted to be part of a team and was very committed to the company."
An estimated 500 mourners, including some of the cable industry's most recognizable names, crowded their way into funeral services April 27 at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Denver. The sanctuary was so packed with industry heavyweights, it prompted one attendee to say she had "never seen so many muckity-mucks" crowded into one location.
Among those attending were former TCI executives J.C. Sparkman, Larry Romrell, Don Fisher, Terry Davis, Sadie Decker, Bob Thomson and Larry Carlton.
Sparkman said he and his wife arrived at the church early, figuring it would be crowded. "And we still ended up sitting in the back of the church," he said.
The fact that Carlton traveled from his home on Maui to attend the services was indicative of the respect Bracken received from his fellow TCI executives, Sparkman said.
"My dad once told me that when you die, you won't be measured by the money you have, but by the number of friends you had," said Sparkman, TCI's former chief operating officer and a golfing partner of Bracken's. "Gary Bracken always had time for everybody. He touched a lot of people."
Several mourners noted that essay read during the service was also read at Bracken's retirement party three years ago.
Written by John Walter Wayland, a writer who specialized in chronicling the history of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, "The True Gentleman" describes a man "who speaks with frankness, but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe."
"Gary Bracken was a gentleman's gentleman," Sparkman said.
In his own understated way, Bracken was as well-known in the cable industry as any of his more high-profile colleagues, said Davis, TCI's former assistant general counsel and a long-time family friend.
"During the services, the pastor asked the gathering to raise their hands if they had the pleasure of working with Gary," said Davis. "I'll bet about three-fourths of the people there raised their hands."
Davis, who later served as chief counsel for successor company AT&T Broadband, recalled how Bracken filled his retirement with golf and hunting trips to South America.
"I compare Gary's golf swing to the way he worked: smooth and steady," Davis said. "He was disciplined, levelheaded, with a lot of common sense."
Bracken was born in Worland, Wyo., on July 29, 1939. In 1969, he left his job at a Big Eight accounting firm to become comptroller of TCI. He eventually rose to executive vice president.
He is survived by his wife, Dotty; a son, Daniel Kevin; and a daughter, Carlee Goemans.
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