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Gary Lee Mekeel

Dr. Gary Mekeel, former Burton School District Superintendent passed away on October 22nd, 2020. Dr. Mekeel was born on September 1st, 1943 in Moline, Illinois to James and Marion Mekeel.  Gary was an avid golfer and could be found often on the course at River Island Country Club. He thoroughly enjoyed a tennis match and was up to any challenger.  What stole his heart however was sailing on his yacht, “Following Seas” as long as he never lost sight of land.

After a number of years as an administrator for Visalia Unified School District, Mekeel began his tenure with Burton in 1990.  He retired in 2004, however, he came out of retirement and returned from 2008 to 2013. His passion and dedication were devoted to the Burton School District.  Under Dr. Mekeel’s leadership, the District saw exponential growth in enrollment and the District went from 3 school sites in 1990, to 8 with the 9th site in its early stages of development at the time of his second retirement. Dr. Mekeel was also instrumental in the creation of the Burton Educational Partnership Foundation in 1992 which provides scholarships to graduates and Mini Grants for teachers to support their resources in the classroom. He came back out of retirement once more in 2017 to act as interim superintendent for the Alpaugh School District. Once again, Mekeel appreciated the opportunity to lead and be engaged in the education of students.

Dr. Mekeel was an active member of his community through the Porterville Rotary Club where he served as the President from 2000-2001. He also served on the Business Education Committee for the Porterville Chamber of Commerce. Mekeel enjoyed his time serving on the Community City Charter Review Committee and acting as a director for the Tulare County Federal Credit Union along with many other public service activities. 

Gary is survived by his wife of 22 years Jan Mekeel, his sister Dottie Olson, his daughters Tawny James (husband Buzz), Natalie Arington (husband Doug), Tiffany Levinson (husband Adam), and son Tyler Mekeel (wife Elisa), step-son Don Scott (wife Lori), along with his step-daughters Kelley Miner (husband Jim), and Paige Scott. He is also survived by his grandchildren Brayden and Lucas James, Kailey and Sarah Grace Arington, Harlan and Ryan Levinson, Sage Mekeel, Bekah (husband Joaquin) Ruiz, Hannah (husband Clay) Sharp, Matthew and Rachel Scott, and Emma Miner.

In Lieu of Flowers, donations may be made to the Burton Educational Partnership Foundation, 264 North Westwood Ave. Porterville, CA 93257.

A Celebration of life service will be held at Hillside Community Church in Porterville - 1091 W. Linda Vista Ave., Porterville, CA on Monday, November 2nd at 10:00 am.

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Gary Mekeel, please visit our flower store.


I was so sad to read of Garys passing. During the time I worked for the Burton School District, Gary was not only my boss but a wonderful mentor and friend. I extend my condolences to his family knowing he will be greatly missed. He always told me that we should work to leave this place better than we found it. He certainly did that.

Sarah Rogers Nov 3 2020 12:00 AM

I am so sad to hear of Garys passing. I worked with him for so many years in the Burton School District that it felt as though he would always be around somewhere. I remember when he first interviewed for the Burton Superintendency; I was privileged to be on that interview committee. In typical Gary style, as he was sitting down to begin that interview, he paused to take off his jacket and hang it on the back of his chair, roll up his shirt sleeves, and then signaled to us that he was then ready to begin the interview. I was struck with the impression that this was a person who was serious about what he was intending to undertake and was ready to (literally) roll up his shirt sleeves and get the job done. Well, the job of a superintendent is probably never completely done, but Gary certainly had an enormous impact on the Burton District through his leadership and guidance during those years of remarkable growth.
During the time that we worked together, I appreciated being able to get to know Gary beyond a simple professional relationship. He was very good to me and provided opportunities for my professional growth and advancement for which I will always be grateful. I would like to express my condolences to Jan, Garys children, and their entire family. Gary left a big footprint and profound legacy for all of us to remember.

Skip Sonksen

Skip Sonksen Oct 28 2020 12:00 AM