Every time he got a new job teaching or running a school, Gary Anger transferred his school spirit to the new place. He bought clothing and gear for his family adorned with the mascot of the school, declaring it was the best at everything. He brought that same enthusiasm to the Shakopee Public Schools when he was named interim superintendent there in the summer of 2017.
The district dropped the “interim” in his title in July. But Anger, 53, of Apple Valley, died early Sunday at Fairview-Ridges Hospital in Burnsville. He had received a cancer diagnosis 10 months ago.
He spent that time balancing cancer treatment with his leadership duties in Shakopee, a district rocked when former Superintendent Rod Thompson was accused of embezzling more than $70,000.
Anger was brought on because the district needed healing, School Board Member Scott Swanson said. He roamed the halls introducing himself, coming up with ideas and writing notes to every teacher and high school graduate.
“People could really feel confident that he’s the real deal,” Swanson said. “The man had nothing but positivity.”
Anger couldn’t bear to be away from his job, so much so that last week he had his wife, Lori, take him to work the day after leaving the hospital, said his daughter, Emily, of Apple Valley. He was so excited about an open house this week at the high school that he said he would attend even if he had to use a wheelchair, she said.
The son of a decorated veteran and an Italian mother, Anger was born on a military base in Kennewick, Wash. His family moved to Minnesota, where he graduated from Kennedy High School in Bloomington.
“He was just a loving brother,” said his brother, Dave, of Apple Valley. “He worked to help the people around him overcome the negative.”
Anger taught elementary school in South Washington County schools, Emily Anger said, connecting with even the shyest students. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as good with kids as he was,” she said.
He moved into administration, serving as a principal in Cottage Grove and later at Red Pine Elementary School in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district.
His first superintendent position was with the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools. Under his leadership, the district became one of the highest-rated rural school districts in Minnesota, according to the Shakopee website.
In his free time, he and his wife, also a teacher, enjoyed going to concerts at the Minnesota Zoo and in downtown Minneapolis. He loved making playlists for various occasions, from back-to-school to the holidays, and also sang in his church choir.
Anger inspired calm and confidence among district staffers, said Dave Orlowsky, the Shakopee district’s data and testing administrator. He said Anger had mostly finished writing his personal back-to-school notes to the district’s teachers, and said that the notes now will be “bittersweet” to receive.
Swanson said that Anger’s death was a huge loss but that the district will move on, as he would have wanted. “I’m happy and excited for the time we had with him,” he said.
Besides his wife, Lori, daughter Emily and brother Dave, Anger is survived by his daughter, Betsy, of Apple Valley; mother, Caterina, of Bloomington, and brother John, of North Carolina. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Thomas Becket Church, 4455 S. Robert Trail, Eagan. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the church, with visitation starting an hour before.