"She was pretty fearless, a really gung-ho, full-of-life adventurous person, a free-spirit-type of person," said JoAnne Chase, wife of the pastor of Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Milwaukee, where Gariety was a member. "Her love for the people was greater than her concern for herself."
On Monday, Gariety was shot and killed along with two other Americans at Jibla Baptist Hospital in southern Yemen. A suspected Muslim extremist was arrested.
Though her family and friends had tried to persuade Gariety to move back to Wisconsin during a visit home last summer, her passion for her missionary work, and her love of the children, were both far more compelling, said her brother, Jerome Gariety Jr. "We tried hard to get her to stay home," he said, recalling his worries about the U.S. government's warnings to Americans living in Yemen to leave the country. "She wouldn't hear of that." The other victims of the bloodshed shared that dedication and fearlessness as well. William E. Koehn, 60, "died doing what he was called to do," said son-in-law Randal Pearce. Koehn had been holding a meeting when the gunman burst in and opened fire, according to the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, based in Richmond, Va. "We understand that this does not reflect on the people of Yemen as a whole," Pearce said Monday outside his home in Mansfield, Texas, about 15 miles southeast of Fort Worth. "We have found them to be gracious and kind. Otherwise, Bill and Marty would never have spent their lives serving there."
Koehn, a Kansas native who moved with wife, Marty, to Yemen in 1975, made hundreds of wooden toy cars for orphans. His wife was not in the room during the shooting and was not injured, relatives said.
Also killed was Dr. Martha C. Myers, who had lived in Yemen 24 years, said her father Ira Myers, the retired director of the Alabama Department of Public Health. "She loved the people very much," Myers said. "She felt like that was home. She had the opportunity to talk to the native women. That would not have been possible for a male doctor in that culture. She delivered lots of babies." Myers said his daughter also helped UNICEF with immunization programs.
A fourth American, hospital pharmacist Donald W. Caswell, 49, who grew up in Levelland, Texas, about 30 miles west of Lubbock, was recovering from surgery for a stomach wound. Caswell's father, D.C. Caswell, 71, said he had worried about his son's decision to do missionary work. "He felt like it was what he needed to do," the father said. "I'm not going to criticize over it. I do hope that he'd come on home now."
For relatives and friends of Gariety, the news of her death was just beginning to set in. "She died doing what she loved best, so there is a lot of comfort in that," said Chase, the pastor's wife. "She was a very courageous woman."
Gariety, who was raised a Catholic and attended a Catholic high school in Milwaukee, had once thought of becoming a nun. But she became a Baptist in the 1980s, and joined the mission agency in 1992, when she was assigned to Jibla Baptist Hospital. "She really felt fulfilled in her life," Jerome Gariety said. "This is where the Lord wanted her, and He comes number one."