I'm probably slower than many people in writing this, but let me add my voice to those mourning the death of E. Gary Gygax earlier this week, in Lake Geneva, WI. This post is, sort of, about the effect that he had on me -- even though we never met.
My introduction to role-playing games (old-style "Red Box" Dungeons & Dragons) came about in Oklahoma City, OK, on the last trip that we made to see my great-grandmother Pulley. Her next-door neighbor had a boy who was about my age, and he had an older brother. I'd been a fan of the cartoon, and the game looked neat. I didn't actually get to play much (at all? -- maybe 30 minutes) on that trip, but I was hooked.
It was probably a 2-year fight with my parents, who'd heard far too much about "the kid at MSU who lived in the steam tunnels because he thought it was real." Nevertheless, in 6th grade (the year after my parents split), the school librarian persuade my mother that there wasn't anything wrong with it. In the apartment building that my mother had, there was a high school student downstairs who was a gamer, and I became friends with one of his buddies. Many years later, I introduced Eric (the latter person above) to the woman who eventually became my wife.
My father didn't have as much problem with the hobby as my mother, and actually picked up German editions of a Gamma World and a Star Frontiers adventure when he went to Germany with his father a year or two later.
It was one of my high school teachers who broadened my RPG horizons beyond "hack-and-slash" style D&D, both to working on creating a consistent persona for a character and introducing me to other game systems. (At the time, it was principally Call of Cthluhu. However, he was the first person that I knew who had something published by White Wolf Game Studio, now the 2nd largest publisher in the RPG market.)
I continued to do RPG gaming through my undergraduate graduation. I've sold most of the things that I spent so much time and money acquiring when I was younger, although I've laid in a small stock of a few things against the day when Leo gets old enough to really participate. On and off, I've helped contribute to Project Aon as an editor or an XML markup typist. I actually really want to get a copy of The Prince's Kingdom sometime in the next couple years. It's a game that was written by somebody specifically for adults to play with their children. He's a little too young to understand now, but around his 4th birthday, it'll be a present to me.
Thank you to everybody who's been mentioned or alluded to here, even if I can't remember your name anymore. My imagination has become richer for your efforts, and it's a gift I hope I can share with my son. Someday.