The only name one would use to describe Gary Schimpf would have to be “Happy”. In fact, it is the only name he ever knew before his first grade teacher called him Gary. With his laid back, all-smiles attitude, Happy is a fitting nickname.
“When my parents had found out my mom was pregnant six years after my sister was born, everyone was happy. And when I was born, I was just one of those happy babies where they would pop me on the behind and I would laugh,” Happy explains.
“It was the first name I ever answered to. When my teacher called out ‘Gary’ I said, ‘No, my name is Happy’ and she had to explain to me that Happy was a nickname,” Happy says.
The name Happy stuck with him for the rest of his life. Schimpf is German deriving from Schimpfin which means ‘easily angered’. “My whole life has been an oxymoron - either I am happy or I am easily angered,” Happy jokes.
Growing up on Signal Mountain with two older brothers and an older sister Happy describes his hometown as Mayberry with Andy Griffith. He loved sports and wrestled, played tennis, basketball and football.
“I rode my bike everywhere and would hang out at the pharmacy. Signal Mountain Pharmacy had milkshakes where you could go in and sit at the counter. The police station was on the corner and Wright’s Grocery was across the street. I would also ride my bike over to the club, where the pool was. My friends and I played ‘kick the can’ and we didn’t come home until dark. It was an idyllic childhood that could never be understood or duplicated ever again,” Happy insists.
Parents Gene and Ann Schimpf were very involved in the community. Gene was a two-time commissioner of Signal Mountain and worked for CCA and Gulf States Paper Corporation and Ann worked as a substitute teacher for some years and raised her children.
“Dad was such a character and, with all the idiosyncrasies that he had, I guess I am more like him. He talked to anybody and never met a stranger. He was so friendly and he took people at face value. I learned that from him - to stick your neck out there and have fun. You live and laugh. Dad always said if you can make just one person laugh, then you have had a good day,” Happy says.
“We hated to go out to dinner with my parents because by the time we left, Dad already knew the waitress, the cook and the dishwasher,” Happy laughs. “He would go in the back and talk to them - it was so embarrassing growing up, but that really was an art to be able to do that without someone calling the police on you and …it made their day. Dad died on his 80th birthday in 2005, but I still have people come up and tell me that they knew my dad,” Happy smiles.
Happy had attended McCallie and then graduated from Notre Dame High School before entering college at UT. As with many freshmen, he didn’t take college too seriously. He came back from Knoxville and went to Chattanooga State majoring in business and marketing.
Happy worked with UPS for a while, did a little bartending and in 1988 he worked for Chattanooga Office Supply. The following year he had the opportunity to transfer to the COS in Knoxville where he would get married and raise a family.
When lifelong friend John Prater offered him a job with Prater Athletic Flooring, Happy took the Knoxville accounts and eventually became a partner with John.
Happy moved his family to Chattanooga in 2000. “I was extremely blessed, coming back to Chattanooga, having known so many people growing up. Zach Wamp had gotten me involved in the Chattanooga Jaycees. We ran golf tournaments as fundraisers for MDA and Special Olympics. It was interesting coming back to Chattanooga when they had vision 2000 going on and the Aquarium was built. I love Chattanooga - it is ‘the big little town’,” Happy says.
In 2002 the family moved to North Carolina where his wife was from. As the marriage dissolved a few years later, Happy moved back to Chattanooga and started his own flooring company. His brother Buck was developing the old Loveman’s building downtown into condominiums. Happy made a bid to his brother and attained the job. He did that for about two years and then began working for Kuebler Builders as a general contractor until the company folded and he joined Signal Energy in 2011.
While Happy was with Kuebler, he had met his wife Trish on the match.com dating site and a year later, the two blended their family of five daughters together.
Trish is the high school improvement specialist for the Catoosa County Board of Education. When she was studying for her doctorate, Happy was a great source of encouragement.
Trish insists, “He pushes me to be the best I can and lifts me up when I am down. I wanted to quit working on my doctorate when ‘the going got tough’, but he wouldn't let me quit.”
Happy jokes, “I winked at Trish first on the dating site and in her photo, she had an Auburn War Eagle T-shirt on. She replied even though I was in my Tennessee garb.”
Trish adds, “I noticed his bright orange shirt right off and I had a sinking feeling I was dealing with someone who wouldn’t take lightly that I loved the Auburn Tigers …and he didn’t. In fact, his words to me were, “I can’t believe that I winked at a War Eagle!”
Happy has been a season ticket holder of UT since 1990. “It is a ritual with my family - we all went to UT. Trish has now bought in to the Vols and we love it. We actually plan around the games,” Happy laughs.
When the couple dated they had discussed past relationships and how they desired to marry for the last time. They decided to take classes with First Things First of Chattanooga and sought premarital counsel.
“First Thing’s First is unbelievably one of the best organizations I have ever been involved with. We ended up doing a commercial interview with Julie Baumgardner and Andrea Perry and we just love the organization. We support it as much as we can. It’s very tough blending families. It takes a lot of faith in the Lord and each other, but that’s our life - all of our girls and everything we have to do. It is the wildest freakin’ roller coaster I have ever been on in my life, but it’s great! I am surrounded by beautiful girls and they all take care of me,” Happy says blissfully.
Trish says, “I feel for Happy in a house filled with girls. I am sure that most of the time he is just trying to 'keep the peace' with all the hormones flying and girly demands being issued out. But at the end of the day we settle down, he prays over dinner and we try to keep a sense of normalcy in all we do.”
Happy concedes, “With teenage girls in the house, it changes hour by hour. One minute they love each other and the next … ‘she’s not my sister!’ – it is crazy. Out of any stage in life that you’d want to know about a girl, I can talk about,” Happy chuckles.
Trish thoughtfully shares that Happy has added so much joy and support in her life.
“He is my life, my lifeline …a really great man. There are times when I have asked him, ‘Where were you when I needed you years ago?’ and his simple reply was ‘We weren't ready for each other yet’ - how insightful he is,” Trish beams.
She adds, “We don't know how to ‘do’ a blended family and know what is right and what is wrong, but we try hard. I honestly believe Happy’s goal every day is to make someone smile.”