Beloved KOMO helicopter pilot Gary Pfitzner laid to rest

ISSAQUAH, Wash. - Hundreds of relatives and friends filled St. Joseph Catholic Church in Issaquah to say farewell to Gary Pfitzner.

Gary died Tuesday when the helicopter he was operating crashed next to our television studios while taking off from the Fisher Plaza helipad.

The crash also killed veteran KOMO News Photographer Bill Strothman.

Those who knew Gary remembered what they loved most about the husband and father of two grown boys.

"You know, you hear when somebody's passed, that they're nearly elevated to sainthood, they were such a good guy," said former news chopper pilot Clark Stahl. "I can honestly say I never saw him without a smile on his face. Just a wonderful guy, always happy."

Stahl was among Gary's current and former co-workers who attended today's service.

KOMO's Dan Lewis was among the many KOMO 4 News staff to pay tribute to Gary.

"It is a sad day today. A lot of tears today and throughout this week," Lewis said.

"But it is great that we can get together, say a lot of prayers together, hugs, shed some more tears together and honor and remember a person who so clearly loved by a lot of people. So it's a sad day, but a really good day."

Gary's family said he put himself through flight school to pursue his passion for flying. The 59-year-old pilot also worked full-time as a technical analyst at Boeing. He traveled the world training others in the use of composites in aircraft manufacturing.

The Pfitzner family asks those wishing to send flowers to instead consider a donation in Gary's name to the Moyer Foundation, which helps children cope with grief and other family challenges.