There was a time when he lost all faith in himself, and in God. For solace, he turned to alcohol.
Eventually, the consequences were deadly. He killed a man.
"I left my first wife and children in Tennessee, and came back to South Dakota and went on a one-year drunk, and ended up killing a guy over a woman," Gary said.
In contrast, Gary, who now lives in Whitewood with his second wife, Gloria, who he met while they were both serving time in the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, has transformed his life to one of beauty instead of despair.
He became a member of the St. Dysmas church congregation while in prison.
"It gave me stability. I felt guilty all my life, but those Lutheran pastors preached a lot of grace. I got fed."
Though prison churches often meet in cafeterias, St. Dysmas worships in an auditorium. The warden lets
inmates solicit funds to improve it, so Gurwell taught himself how to make stained-glass.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Vermillion is the latest benefactor of Gary's handiwork.
Gary and Gloria learned that St. Paul's Episcopal was interested in having a stained-glass window designed and in-
"After we got that window done, then they decided, well, maybe the people would like all of the windows done in stained-glass."
Gary is happy to announce that the last of St. Paul's 19 stained-glass windows has been completed.