Flat Rock paramedic immortalized on Rose parade float

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Southfield — Gently using a paint brush, Laurie Terreault put the finishing touches Tuesday on a life-like portrait of her late husband that will be part of a Rose Bowl parade.

The floragraph is made up of natural materials such as coffee beans and flowers and will honor former paramedic Gary Terreault who donated his organs and eyes when he died in September 2014.

“Gary would have liked this,” said Laurie Terreault, a retired Providence Hospital nurse, looking at a rendering of the float.

Gary Terreault’s face will be part of one of the sails on the Donate Life float in the 128th Rose Bowl Parade Jan. 2 in Pasadena, California.

“He was an avid boater and a fishermen. He loved palm trees and birds and drank coffee 24 hours a day (referencing the coffee beans used in part of the floragraph),” Laurie Terreault said. “And he loved college football (the Rose Bowl’s main event).

“This couldn’t be more perfect. It is a fitting legacy to his commitment and belief of organ donation.”

Gary Terreault’s family and friends worked Tuesday at the Southfield Fire Department to finish the grinning life-like portrait of his face, one of four-dozen donor’s images that will be on the float’s sails. A Donate Life Rose Parade float has served as an inspiring memorial to organ and tissue donors since 2004.

“This is a way to honor him and other donors for their gifts,” said Andrea Puskar, who is handling publicity for Gift of Life of Michigan.

Gary Terreault, a 29-year paramedic from Flat Rock, was later an EMS coordinator and instructor at Providence Hospital in Southfield. He died at the age of 61.

His wife, Laurie, two sons and a daughter-in-law will be flown to California to see the float — a two-sailed Polynesian outrigger which is book-ended by palm trees, exotic birds and tiki totems. Several donor recipients from around the country will ride the float, paddling on the craft while relatives of recipients and donors will walk alongside during its five-mile parade route.

The Dignity Memorial network of 13 funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers in Detroit sponsored the floragraph finishing event which allows loved ones to put the last touches on the portrait created by the artists commissioned by the Donate Life organization.

“We hope the floragraph portrait and the Donate Life float at the Rose Parade bring awareness to the importance of being a registered donor and giving others the chance at a new life,” said Vern Pixley, senior managing director at Dignity Memorial.

TV broadcasts of the Rose Bowl parade are viewed by tens of millions of people each year.

Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee, who knew Terreault, said: “We are so happy to offer our fire station as the place where Gary’s family, friends and volunteers can gather to recreate his image for this wonderful tribute.

“Gary’s dedication to his job saved hundreds of people in the Detroit area.”

Menifee added: “Gary had a great outlook on life. He left his family with the memories of his kindness, wisdom and sense of humor, but his legacy lives on through his final act of kindness, which was to be an organ donor.”


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Donate organs

Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program and serves as the intermediary between donors and their families, hospital and transplant center staff, and patients waiting for these precious gifts.

Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or healthy history. Go to www.giftoflifemichigan.org or call (866) 500-5801 to register or to get more information.