Gabriel Garcia (3/21/1979 - 10/1/2009), the most recent victim of Thymic cancer left us, all too soon, on Thursday, October 1st at 8:04 p.m. Even during his final hours he joked with longtime friends that visited him. Even during these last hours no one could anticipate, not even Gabe, the deteriorating disease that was undermining his health. He sure did not want to go nor wish it upon anyone else. His most humbling beginnings as the son of Mexican migrant farmworkers began in the migrant camps, strawberry, cucumber and tulip fields. “My brother was a hardworker and fast to pick cucumber,” remembers his sister, Felicita. Growing up, Gabe’s mother, Epifania, would counsel him to pick the low hanging raspberries. Gabe was eight years old. While Gabe was an incredible worker, he despised the laborious and strenuous field work required. Gabe’s mom timeless reminder, “Pa pendejo no se estudia (for stupidity there’s no degree).
He attended Washington and Madison elementary, LaVenture Middle School and was a graduate of Mount Vernon High School, home of the famed Bulldogs. Gabe epitomized our youth: engaged, vibrant, optimistic, friendly, and passionately interested in the well-being of others. Gabe coached youth sports, motivated others to reach for their dreams, and inspired the possibilities of those who would come to know him. In 1997, his classmates honored Gabe with becoming Homecoming King. He was the first Hispanic. This honor requires superb academic records and student body majority vote. He was also a delegate and honored at The White House in Washington, D.C.
Once, Gabe scuffled with longtime friend, Esmael “Smiley” Lopez by the ‘bike rack.’ Both claimed victory. Longtime friend and confidante Edgar Franks disagrees, as a witness he notes that Gabe came out on top.
Gabe participated in high school club fundraisers to attend and send his classmates to educational conferences, including: -National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and the Constitution -MEChA Regional Conference, Portland State University (attended) -La Raza Youth Conference, Western Washington University (attended)
After earning his high school diploma Gabe attended Western Washington University and in addition to his studies he proudly strengthened the MEChA chapter hosting dozens of underrepresented and disadvantaged youth, giving a small glimpse of college life. He kept engaged with his high school friends opening the doors at Western and in the life of the university. One of his favorite nightly Bellingham hotspots, The Royal, allowed him to unwind and clear the academic stress. More recently, Gabe adopted Cactus Moon Saloon in Everett. He loved playing pool.
For well over ten years he DJ’d with longtime friend and confidante Israel Avendano at Sonido Alto Voltaje–he clearly loved Mexican music as much as anyone could. On the side, he loved to mix, record and produce his own beats, renewing life to social events.
Over the years he developed a passion for technology and the sciences, attending Renton Technical College where he studied computer science and went on to apply those skills with vigor. Over the years, he developed friendships that spanned throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
“My friends are my family” Gabe would always say. In 2006, dressed in his finest attire he attended the ceremonious marriage of college buddy Mark and Michelle Jones.
Over the last three years he worked in construction before he was diagnosed in February 2009. A true friend and advisor, he constantly reminded his friend, Julian Tovar, to take his medications.
Gabe returned to Mount Vernon to invest time with his sister and brother-in-law, Felicitas (Felis) Garcia and Cesar Cante, family and friends. Gabe would jokingly tell his friends that his sister was now okay with being called, Happy (English for ‘Felis’). Felis of course hated it. Gabe loved spending time with his nephew Jonathan. “Mamamuchos” Gabe nicknamed him.
Gabe’s latest wish was for Felis to marry. His dream came true and on March 14th, Felis and Cesar were married at St. Joseph’s by Padre Milhton Scarpetta, whom confessed Gabe when he was young. In addition to witness, Gabe gave away Felis in the ceremony.
Cesar stressed, “why do good people leave us, and the bad people stay with us?” Gabe Garcia was more than good. He was kind, and had a huge heart.
Aurelio Garcia, Gabe’s grandfather, was the town’s historian and archivist of Santo Domingo, Guerrero, their hometown. He jotted everything on paper, including who left to America (El Norte), who passed away, and was a notary public. He was intelligent. Gabe’s parents, Epifania and Juan, longed for one of their sons to study so they wouldn’t continue in the fields like everyone in the family. And, Gabe did. More recently, Gabe kept an online diary explicitly describing his struggle with cancer.
Gabe was most loved, as evident from his MySpace page. He is missed already as evident from thoughts and prayers from former classmates, friends, and family on Facebook and Legacy.com.
Despite the insurmountable odds, poor and humbling upbringing, Gabe was an example that with hardwork and focus, vigor and passion, smile and humor, the impossible is possible, the unattainable is reachable. He lived and brought life to every situation.
Gabe most certainly made a permanent impact on those who would come to cross paths as evident in the hundreds of friends that would visit, pray and chat with Gabe in what would be his final days. He made his last and final confession on Wednesday to Padre Milhton.
“Gabe had a diversity of friends, from faraway as Canada to abroad” noted, Felis and Cesar. As the hours and minutes ticked away, Gabe struggled to breath. He struggled and fought to the end. His final request was to be with his family. His friends. Felis and Cesar, and hospital administration made this possible. The untimely news spread via text message that ‘our Gabe’ is gravely ill. Over 100+ had the honor of paying their respects at the Sedro Woolley hospital. They gathered tightly in the room, sitting and standing, taking every square inch. Yesterday Wednesday, we carried ‘our brother ‘ to his final resting place at Hawthorne, next to his brother, Juan Garcia Jr. In Ramon Ayala style, a guitar and accordian played at the burial, per Gabe’s request, reminding each of us, “the day that I leave this earth, I will take nothing. Give thanks to life, life is short. What happens on this earth, only the memories are left. When I leave, I will only take a handful of dirt.” And, so everyone present did. Each of us, prayed, sprinkled dirt, and sent Gabe off with flowers. We all wished we had not.
Gabe Garcia had an infectious smile, and humor that is both irreplaceable, and unmatched. Always smiling, he will forever live in our hearts, cheer us to our dreams and continue to bless and motivate us from above.
David Molina is an old friend, classmate, that is forever indebted to Gabe for encouraging him to stay in school and reach for his dreams.