You can take anything from a man if you are rich and powerful. You can take away his land and his livelihood. But what you can never take away is his dream and his willingness to fight for those dreams. The American film, The Burial, hits just the right emotions as it establishes the fact that Willie Gary has always been a fighter. In the film, he told Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe that he was disrespected by a representative of the Raintree Apartment, who refused to rent him an apartment because of the color of his skin. Now, Willie Gary’s official website doesn’t make any claim that this piece of information is real, but we do know one thing about him: the man has always fought against all odds. It can be better understood by the real-life fact that he went on to become a star football player at Shaw University in Raleigh and even earned an athletic degree after being told that there was no place for him on the college football team.
Who is Willie E. Gary?
Willie Gary is the perfect hero of a classic underdog story. Born into a family of Black migrant farmers, Gary always had the desire to make it big so that he could help his family and community. As told by him, he was just eight years old when he started doing sharecropping with his mother, Mary, to support the family of 11 children. Perhaps, from a very young age, Gary knew the weight of surviving in the real world. He tells us that he was no taller than the grass itself when he started cutting down those stiff and rigid sugarcanes. I find it poetic enough, you see, because ironically, the man has always been “The Giant Killer.” With his unbending resilience and zeal, he had often taken up fights against the Giants and came out victorious in the end, just to set an example in the world that it isn’t the size of your stature that matters but the size of the fight you put up. After earning a degree in business administration, Gary started his own landscaping business, but he might have quickly realized that there needed to be something bigger and better so that he could make a dent in the universe. And there, he went on to get a law degree and pass the bar examination on his first attempt.
There are many people in this world who have a burning desire to prove their worth. You can probably come up with a million names if I ask you who you look up to when you are in dire need of inspiration. However, I quickly realized that we shouldn’t just look for motivation from people who have achieved greatness in this world. Instead, we should ask ourselves what they did with that fame and money. Are their contributions even close to what Muhammad Ali did for his community? I am not sure about others, but Willie Gary fits the bill.
What Makes Gary Stand Out Than The Rest Of The Lot?
Throughout the film, we come across numerous instances where Willie Gary’s willingness to help his community is highlighted. However, there is a transformation as well. Initially, you would see him as a man aggressively following a certain agenda, though mostly he was just trying to fill his own pockets to sustain his lavish lifestyle, but then something changed. While pursuing Jeremiah’s case, he came across the malpractices of the Loewen Group, who were robbing people of their right to give a proper burial to their loved ones. Gary soon realized that these giant corporations were trying to erase the existence of the common man, and his community happened to be a victim of the scam. These corporations, through their corporate language and complex paperwork, were fooling people, and they needed to be stopped before they could exploit more innocent people.
The fight that Gary and Jeremiah had started had become much larger than their individual and personal gains, and therefore, they needed to put the giant into the grave at all costs. Gary not only won the case against Loewen Group but also shook the very foundation it stood on. However, it isn’t true that Loewen Group filed for bankruptcy because of Jeremiah’s case against them. The reason for their closure was that Raymond Loewen and his company had been under a huge amount of debt, which he had taken from the market to expand his business, similar to what we saw in the film. He might be an ambitious man, but he didn’t have a vision or purpose for those ambitions. He was selfish and greedy and wanted to fill his own bank accounts rather than help or serve people in general, which inevitably differentiates him from the likes of Gary and Jeremiah.
What Happens to Gary After the Case?
As told at the end of The Burial, the Loewen Group appealed the verdict of O’Keefe vs. Loewen and later made a settlement of 175 million dollars. Gary was entitled to 25 percent of the total amount for his professional fees as a lawyer. But he only received 12.5 million dollars in cash, and the rest of the amount was paid through shares of the Loewen Group, which he forgot to sell before the company filed for bankruptcy. In short, he only received the cash percentage and nothing more. However, the fame and name he achieved through this case helped him get more high-profile cases. Later on, he won major judgments against corporations like Walt Disney and Ansheuser-Busch.
Where is Gary now?
After getting his law degree, Gary returned to his home state, Florida, where he opened his own law firm. He currently has four children with his childhood love and wife, Gloria, who has been with him through thick and thin, as portrayed in the film. All of Gary’s three sons have followed in the footsteps of their successful father and are a part of his prestigious law firm. While Gary is not very active on social media, his law firm’s Instagram page updates about him and his endeavors quite often. As of now, Gary and Gloria, together with their children, are living a peaceful and happy life in Florida, where they continue their philanthropic work and try to help as many individuals as they can in their community.
At some point in the film, Gary’s mother tells Jeremiah that he is one of those kids who will always cling to you for dear life and can’t let go. She said it for the connections and friends that Gary made throughout his life, but I believe the same could be said for the principles and values. He is a perfect example of what unshakable resilience can do in life, and we really hope that the generations to come will be able to learn from him and follow in his footsteps to create a better world.