Gary and Dee Nystrom hefted his scooter into the station wagon and drove from their Vacaville home to the Sacramento airport. Since Gary's accident and disability, travel had been particularly difficult. Today it became worse because of severe weather in the Midwest. Instead of flying direct from California to Kansas City, they would have to route through Seattle and land in Omaha, driving the last leg. They managed to check the scooter on Northwest, and the airline found Gary a wheelchair for the trip to the gate.
After 21 years in the U.S. Air Force, Nystrom had retired at the rank of master sergeant in 1987. He became a loss-prevention manager at two JCPenney stores between the Bay Area and Sacramento, also becoming devoted to the company's traditions. Then, at the time of Penney's accelerating decline in 1998, Nystrom was hit by a car and sustained serious neck and back injuries. The surgery was botched and he went on total disability.  (He can stand for short periods and walk short distances, but he has to be careful. He spends a lot of time in pain on his back or in a hot bathtub.)
As a positive distraction, Nystrom has become a sort of "father communicator" to an e-mail group of Penney retirees and longtime employees . He also regularly writes Penney management (with input from his group). While impressed with Castagna and aware of the handicaps of Penney insularity , he is one of those who has never been convinced that the traditional Penney company had to be totally abandoned .
In March 2000, Nystrom decided to attend the upcoming shareholders meeting and make a statement from the floor. He e-mailed requests for ideas and language, then began writing and handing material to Dee for editing. When he learned about the shift in the meeting's location, rewriting began on his already unsparing remarks. He would issue a blanket condemnation of the board, of Oesterreicher, and of company officers.
The Nystroms arrived in Lenexa late in the evening but did not check into the motel immediately. Instead, they drove the route to Penney's distribution center in order to eliminate surprises and be certain of the timing. The meeting would start early the next morning, and Gary had to be ready.
As they drove, the Nystroms passed a Dairy Queen. Had they arrived several hours earlier, they would have seen an odd sight in a drive-through that usually saw more humble traffic. To scout meeting site preparations before retiring to their hotel, Oesterreicher and a company party had driven to Lenexa in limousines. The chairman felt hungry and told the driver to pull into the DQ. As the trailing limo followed suit, both highway passers-by and DQ employees were treated to the sight of two dark limousines in line for burgers and shakes. What well-to-do people would be so eccentric? Was it a rock band or a Mafia party? No, it was JCPenney management!
 Collecting benefits has been a constant hassle, with his major medical fortunately covered through his wife's government job.