Bryce Gast: A Goshen Life Remembered
Nothing could have been more difficult for Kelly Gast, a lifelong Goshen resident, than losing her husband, Bryce.
Bryce Gast, Goshen’s Administrative City Engineer, passed away suddenly on October 3, 2022, and not one day has gone by that Kelly and her two daughters—Indy and Pippa—have not thought of him.
“We just miss him so much,” said Gast. “It’s been a year now since we lost Bryce, but he’s still such a big part of our lives. The girls and I talk about him a lot. We share our favorite stories and memories of him. Bryce was, truly, just an incredible person to be around.”
“Bryce enjoyed raising our family here in Goshen. He was an incredible husband and father. Those roles were the most important to him. He was so proud of our girls and I. Bryce was always our biggest supporter, and he frequently spoke about his love for us and how thankful he was for the life we had built here in Goshen. He loved and respected his friends and colleagues he worked with, and he loved his job as Administrative City Engineer. He was so thankful for the support he received and the progressive nature of the city toward environmental improvements.”
Bryce had many friends and acquaintances from his years working with, and at, the City of Goshen—and was regarded as a thoughtful, kind and caring family man dedicated to, and invested in, his role for the city. Gast, as such, is often approached by folks who wish to greet her and offer their warm condolences.
“It means a lot to the girls and I when that happens,” said Gast. “It’s nice knowing that people remember Bryce that way; that they got to see some of the amazing and beautiful qualities in him that we were lucky to see every day. Bryce had a lot of love for Goshen, and now that some time has passed it’s important to me to try and express the gratitude and admiration Bryce felt very strongly toward Goshen and its communities, its leaders, its people, and its future.”
Bryce and Kelly Gast built a Goshen life
Bryce Gast was born in Warsaw, Indiana, in 1981. He grew up in Akron, Indiana, and graduated from Tippecanoe Valley High School in 1999 and would go on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the prestigious Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2003.
In 2010, working as a consultant for the highly-regarded wastewater engineering firm Donohue & Associates—who’d recruited and hired him straight out of college—Bryce designed Goshen’s Wet Weather Detention Facility, and subsequently agreed to come to Goshen to oversee the construction of that facility.
His technical expertise and capacity were clearly evident, as his design and oversight helped deliver a facility capable of efficiently treating 212 million gallons daily of stormwater, and capturing and storing a one year/one hour rain event of 1.1 inches.
What was even more impressive about Bryce was his ability to fit right in and, from the get-go, be able to connect and work well with a team to complete an objective. Bryce quickly built strong relationships with co-workers, associates, and city representatives—including former mayor Jeremy Stutsman and Director of Public Works, Dustin Sailor, and many others—and earned the respect and admiration of those he met for his focused and well-balanced approach to project management.
“It’s pretty rare for an engineer to come along and just be able to fit in so well—Bryce was just one of those people with a magnetic personality,” said Sailor. “He had a great manner about him and a great smile. He was a joy to be around and work with, and he was a terrific engineer—that was clear right away.”
“Bryce was so intelligent,” said Charlie Riggs, Maintenance Manager for Goshen City Utilities. “He was on the rise as an engineer, but he was also so good at working with people and breaking things down in ways everyone could follow and understand. His design for the wet weather facility was just awesome.”
“He was just a one-of-a-kind person,” said Jim Kerezman, Goshen’s Wastewater Superintendent. “Bryce was one of the brightest and kindest people I’ve ever met. He had a passion for his work, and the people he worked with, and he loved being on-site. He also loved his family, and you felt that; he always talked about them, and he brought all of that goodness and warmth into work with him everyday. Bryce made you feel like he’d known you forever.”
During that year, in the fall of 2010, Bryce met Kelly, then Kelly Ray, and both of their lives were changed.
“There were so many things I admired about Bryce, right from the beginning,” said Gast. “He was kind to everyone he’d meet, and he was warm and intelligent and he gave people his full attention. Bryce was six-foot-five, and he had a presence, but he was so humble. There was nothing imposing or intimidating about him. He was all kindness and humility, and I just loved that about him.”
The two were engaged in the spring of 2011 and they decided to live in Goshen, where Kelly, a 1998 graduate of Goshen High School, was born and raised.
“Bryce knew how much I loved the Goshen community,” said Gast, the Corporate Director of Human Resources for Dexter, located in Elkhart. “And Bryce had come to love this community and all the people he’d met since coming here. He loved Goshen. He loved our downtown, and he loved that Goshen is a city on the move; always reinventing and growing. We quickly concluded that we wanted to stay in Goshen to start our life together and eventually raise our family here.”
A dedicated family man and city employee
A few years after the two were married and had daughters Indy and Pippa, Bryce—who, as a consultant for Donohue & Associates, continued to work over the years with the city of Goshen as a client—came to Kelly with an idea.
“Goshen’s Administrative City Engineer position became available and Bryce approached me about leaving his private consulting firm for the role,” said Gast. “The city was happy with the work he was doing for them, and had done over the years, and it was clear that Bryce wanted to serve the City of Goshen full time. He was already so vested in this community. Taking a full-time engineering role with the city would also mean less traveling and more time to be home in the evenings with the girls and I. That was really important to Bryce—family always came first.”
The night that Bryce called Sailor to let him know he was going to apply for the job, Kelly could tell Bryce was nervous. When he hung up the phone, she asked how the conversation went.
“He smiled and very calmly said, ‘I think Dustin was pretty excited I’m applying. I think this is good, Kelly. Really good.'”
Bryce would begin his career as the City of Goshen’s Administrative City Engineer in May 2019 and during his time in this role he was integral to upgrades and improvements likely to last Goshen for generations to come.
Recent, substantial upgrades to Goshen’s Wastewater Treatment Plant—much of the work designed and implemented, over the years, with Bryce in a lead role—involved replacing pumps and clarifiers dating back to the 1960s and 70s, expanding the facility’s aeration tank system, installing a more energy efficient blowing system, and installing a new dewatering building for the plant’s biosolids.
“Bryce was a true engineer in the sense that he loved all aspects of engineering, and he was very inquisitive,” said Sailor. “That’s one of the best qualities of a great engineer, and Bryce was that. Providing a good solution was not enough for an engineer like Bryce; he enjoyed digging into the root cause of a problem to try and understand the depth and scope of a situation, so that he could fix it and make it better.”
“We were grateful that Bryce was one of the leads on the city’s recently-completed upgrade to the Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said former Goshen mayor Jeremy Stutsman, now the President and CEO of Lacasa, Inc. “His expertise and attention to detail was fundamental to that project, which successfully upgraded age-old equipment and created new efficiencies that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city of Goshen and its residents.”
Bryce took his work seriously, and worked long days—even, when he could, spending time in the evenings to read and research new technologies and innovations in the water and wastewater space.
“Bryce loved challenges and figuring things out—the last few years he was very involved in the updates and upgrades being completed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said Gast. “He was always looking for things to bring to the table that could improve Goshen. Bryce frequently spoke about finishing his career working at the city. He had so many plans and ideas, and it’s hard knowing he is not here to bring them to fruition.”
The City of Goshen officially unveiled the Bryce Gast Memorial Bench, Oct. 2, 2023, in honor of its late Administrative City Engineer, Bryce Gast. The bench is located next to Goshen’s Rieth Interpretive Center, at Shanklin Park, and is a space for peaceful contemplation; a place people can go to remember Bryce.
Mick Reese worked with Bryce—and Reese, Goshen’s Environmental Compliance Administrator, doesn’t have to travel far to remember his co-worker and friend.
“I was coaching girls 10-and-under softball, and Bryce brought his daughter Pippa—who was six at the time—to the diamond and asked me if she could be on the team,” Reese said. “He said ‘I know she’s young, Mick, but she just loves softball and I explained to her that she has to learn, and that she may not play that much at first.’ Just the way Bryce was advocating for his daughter, getting her involved in something she loved, but treating her so maturely—that was so special. And then when he was going to leave, Pippa was feeling a bit anxious and she was clinging to his leg. And Bryce was calm and loving in how he handled that. He let her know it was going to be alright. He was gentle and encouraging—I’ll never forget that.”
“Bryce was such a genuine, good person,” said Stutsman. “He had a great sense of humor and he was good to be around, and he was so dedicated and hard-working for the city. We all fondly remember Bryce, it was so difficult when he passed away; incredibly difficult for Kelly and her girls and family, and for Bryce’s family, and for all of us that deeply admired and respected him. His work, and the person he was—he left a legacy here in Goshen; a legacy of what it means to put your all into something and work together with people to get big things done, and be a good man in the community.”
“We hear people say, ‘Everyone has a bad day here and there,'” said Sailor. “Bryce was the type of person, who, if he did ever have a bad day, no one ever would have known about it because he was just always full of positive, productive energy. He was humble and genuine, someone that people enjoyed working with and respected. He was someone who knew how to stick in there and get the job done. He always wanted to accomplish the task, and accomplish it well; for his own pride and, also, for the sake of the community. Bryce, is continually missed.”
Kindness never fades
“It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but every time someone approaches me to offer their condolences it feels like a reminder of who Bryce was,” said Gast. “In those moments it reminds me of his strength of character, the fact that he made such a strong impression on the people who approach me, and it feels like Bryce is teaching the girls and I a lesson from very far away. The lesson is that kindness never fades. It lives on with the people you share it with, and it is my greatest hope that Bryce’s kindness and character, his spirit, lives on in some way through Indy and Pippa and I, and anyone who ever encountered his beautiful soul.”
The City of Goshen officially unveiled the Bryce Gast Memorial Bench, Oct. 2, 2023, in honor of its late Administrative City Engineer, Bryce Gast. The bench is located next to the Rieth Interpretive Center, at Shanklin Park, as a space for peaceful contemplation. The plaque reads: “IN MEMORY OF BRYCE J. GAST. BELOVED BY FAMILY, CHERISHED BY FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES.”
Written by Jake Sandock
Original publish date Oct. 2023