Gordon McLeod Amsler, a longtime resident of Montgomery, died in the early hours of July 7, 2023, after a brief illness. He was born in Laurel, Mississippi February 23, 1934, the eldest child of Floyd and Sudie (nee Williams) Amsler. He had one brother, Floyd Jr., who preceded him in death some years ago. The family moved to New Orleans around the outbreak of the second world, war, but eventually settled in Huntsville. Gordon always claimed says he was not a very good student, which is ironic given that he would eventually earn 5 college degrees, including a Ph.D.
Near the end of his time as an undergraduate at Auburn, the results of a military aptitude test suggested he might qualify as an officer. He liked that idea, so he left Auburn early (he often called himself an “Auburn dropout”) and enlisted. Soon after, he completed Officer Candidate School and became a pilot.
“Pilot” would be an important part of his identity not just over his 23-year Air Force career, but also for the rest of his life, through his experiences in the Air Force and deep friendships he made and fostered over the decades.
His time in the Air Force included assignments across the globe… Greenland, Southeast Asia (twice, in fact) and, thankfully, Homestead, Florida, where he met Mary Alice (nee Quinn) in 1967. She herself was a Pan Am flight attendant, it’s a wonder they were both on the ground long enough to meet. They married in February 1968, and twin children Susan and James dutifully came into the world 9 months
Gordon flew most of the Air Force’s leading-edge aircraft, including F-86s, F-104s, and F-111’s. Eventually promoted to Lt. Colonel, he commanded a squadron of F-111’s in the late stages of the Vietnam war. Those of his friends who know him as the kind and giving person that he is, might be surprised to know that he flew many difficult and dangerous nighttime bombing missions over Hanoi and other targets. He rarely talked about these experiences, except with those who shared them.
Upon return from Southeast Asia, Gordon was reassigned from Nellis AFB to Langley, where he served until he retired in 1977.
War is hard, and it was hard Gordon and Mary Alice’s marriage, which ended shortly after the war did. But Gordon soon met Anne (nee Allen). They married in 1976 and remained devoted to each other for the rest of his life.
Dad’s retirement from the Air Force brought him back to Alabama, where he began career #2: civil engineer. He was the Safety Engineer on the Harris Dam project and remained with Southern Company for 13 years. It was during this time that he returned to school, earning his MBA and eventually his PhD in Management from the University of Alabama. Upon retiring from Southern Company, he began his third career: teacher. He taught business courses at Huntingdon, UAB, Samford, and eventually Troy, where he became the department head of the business school. Teaching is a calling and gift, not a career; he would always be a teacher, even after he retired from Troy. Even after retiring from Troy, he was an active presence in the First United Methodist Church Sunday School community, and also volunteered at schools for many years. His volunteerism and generosity are a large part of who he was.
Gordon and Anne were also prescient enough to build a house on Lake Martin back when regular people could, and they moved into the home they built together in 1978. They would remain there almost 30 years, but even after leaving, the Lake would always be an important part of their lives. His ashes will be scattered on Lake Martin, in fact.
Gordon was exceedingly kind, proper, formal, dignified, funny, and (based the variety of his life experiences, this should surprise nobody) had a story for every occasion. He was an avid contributor to the Letters to the Editor section of the local newspaper. Gordon was also an avid reader of books, magazines, and articles, and regularly sent books and articles to his family and friends on topics he felt they should know about. It was one of his many ways for showing his love.
He had a steady and reassuring presence, and never raised an angry voice to anyone but himself (and even then, the anger was mild). We, his family and dearest friends, will miss him. But we also take solace in the fact that he suffered only briefly, led an honorable and well-lived 89 years, and left nothing undone or unsaid. We rejoice in the certainty that he’s now in the Lord’s presence and hope we’re doing him proud.