I was in college and there was this guy who ... well, it was two egos clashing and we didn't get along. At a certain point he asked me along to play this game he and some other folks I knew played on saturday nights. I said I would come and watch, but wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved in this. About an hour into the evening I couldn't stand just watching anymore and rolled up a couple of characters, the names of which have followed me ever since, Kriel and Mox The Fool. Both of these have been NPCs in most every game I have ever run, and that is a lot of games.
The guy who got me into the game, Matt Stover, became, and is still a good friend of mine. I don't have a group to play with anymore, a problem with being in Ames, but that game got me into the game store biz (a few times in my life) and into fandom and certainly made my grades MUCH lower in college than they would have been.
All because of AD&D.
Gary was, by most reports, not a terribly nice person, as an example, TSR's treatment of Merle Rasmussen was shameless to say the least. There is some doubt as to whether Gary really wrote much of the original game, although I think his later games perhaps prove that wrong.
Still, he was the one who put it forward for the rest of us to play.
Thank you Gary, RIP