Gary L. Headley

CHETOPA — Gary L. Headley, 62, of Chetopa passed away at 11:41 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Freeman West in Joplin.

Gary Lewis Headley was born on Sept. 17, 1959, to Harry L. and Marilyn Sue (Harmon) Headley in Oswego. His first three years were spent in Wichita, after which the family moved back to Chetopa, where he grew up and attended school. He graduated from Chetopa High School in 1977.

Following high school, Gary attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma, where he was active in the drama department as a stage manager for various plays. After earning an associate’s degree, he spent two years working at TecTank in Parsons. He then moved to Laramie, Wyoming, to attend the University of Wyoming to study mass communications involving the television industry. He returned to Kansas and attended Missouri Southern State University in Joplin to further his education in the television field. After completing an internship with KODE, he began working full time in the production department at KODE. He later advanced to the news department as a photojournalist. 

Gary showed his commitment to serving his community using his professional skills during the 2011 Joplin tornado. He was “on duty” for 28 hours straight documenting the aftermath of the tornado that devastated the city. In 2021, he spent countless hours assisting in compiling a pictorial history of the tornado damage and stories from survivors. Upon receiving a Kansas Association of Broadcasters award for the special program commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the tornado, Leisha Beard, KODE news director, stated that Gary shot every story in the special and shared in the award. He truly used his talents and knowledge to impact the lives of so many in Joplin and the surrounding area through the work that he produced and by mentoring others. 

He loved NASCAR racing and football, especially the Green Bay Packers. For two years, Gary attended the races at Daytona Beach, Florida, for KODE to feature Jamie McMurray, a NASCAR driver from Joplin. Most importantly, Gary had a deep commitment to his family.

Survivors include his parents, Harry and Sue Headley of Chetopa; his aunt and uncle, Darla and Carl C. Banzet; his cousins, Brian Banzet, Brett and Ann Banzet and Tracy and Troy Vandever; the beloved family cat, Lucy Paul; and a host of family and friends from KODE and the area.

He was preceded in death by his maternal grandparents, Elwin and Hazel Harmon; his paternal grandparents, Lute and Leota Headley; three cousins, Cindy, Linda and Sharon; a special great cousin, Dakota; and a very special friend since childhood, Audie Sherer.

The graveside service will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Lake Creek Cemetery in Bartlett. Friends may call to sign the register from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bath-Forbes-Hoffman Funeral in Chetopa.

Memorials are suggested to the Midwest Transplant Network or the Missouri Southern State University Foundation for the Gary Headley Scholarship benefiting students studying television and news production. These may be left at or mailed to the Bath-Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, P.O. Box 346, Chetopa, KS, 67336.

Online condolences may be left at

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