Ralph Gabriel

Obituary of Ralph Gabriel

**** Lets remember Mike Gabriel. Please, mark your calendar for August 19th, at 1:00 pm for a "Tailgate Gathering" at 73 Henry Street in Hollister. No need to bring anything other than a good memory of Mike. ****

Ralph "Mike" Gabriel, an energetic man whose devotion to his community changed the face of San Benito County for generations to come, died on July 18, 2017. He was 93.

Born 12/11/1923 in Redondo Beach, he was the second son of Joseph and Alice Gabriel. The family moved to Hollister in 1937 where Ralph re-identified himself. When his new friends asked his name, he responded "Mike", and henceforth, "Mike" it was.

Mike graduated from Hollister High in 1942, and attended Salinas Junior College where he made lifelong friends from the tri-county areas. With World War II raging he joined the Naval Air Corp Division, flying a Stearman.

After the war Mike earned a degree in Economics from Stanford University in 1947. He returned to Hollister, and with his brother Don, joined the family business, Hollister Ice Company. As iceboxes were replaced by refrigerators, and as agriculture became a global business, Mike and Don transformed the business. They progressed from one that sold blocks of ice to house-holds and for railroads and agriculture transport to one that supported agribusiness in San Benito County through cooling and shipping perishable fresh produce to markets far from San Benito County.

In 1949, Mike married Elizabeth "Betty" Hall of Watsonville. The couple had three children: Connie (Tom Wilson), Jade, and Mitch (Marianne). Mike leaves grandchildren: Margaret, Abbey (Jon), Brian (Valerie), Eric Lewine, Josh, Steve (Helmi) Sandifer, great grandgirls Sydney and Karle. As the son of immigrant families from Lebanon, Mike was proud of the old country word which renamed him as "Giddu" (grandpa).

Mike and Betty traveled widely in the company of friends. With their many social activities they developed a camaraderie of friends with treasured memories and great stories that would make a best seller.

It was his devotion to his community that Mike distinguished himself. He served as a leader in Boy Scouts, a member of the local Draft Board, SIRS, Hollister Rotary Club, the Elks Lodge, and drove trucks for the Community Pantry. Mike served on the San Benito County Water District Board of Directors for 22 years. During his term, the Water Board embarked upon an ambitious public works project for San Benito County. Through trips to Washington, D.C.,  phone calls, letters and lobbying, the San Felipe Project was created. San Felipe brings water from the Sierras to San Benito and Santa Clara counties, providing an additional source of irrigation to our areas.

Mike had an unlimited amount of energy which he poured into many projects and activities. One such venture with his brother and friends was the rebuilding of Bolado Park Golf course after WWII. The story credits his buddies in redesigning Morris Minors into golf carts- a golf cart that could make 50 mph on a clear fairway. Golf was a huge part of Mike's life sharing rounds with his friends at Bolado, Ridgemark, Shastina, Spyglass, and across the world. A true Sports fan, he faithfully followed the PGA, LPGA, Stanford Athletics, the HayBalers, 49ers, SF Giants and Golden State Warriors.

Mike was an energetic outdoorsman. Friendships gained him access onto many San Benito ranches spanning North County, through Cienega valley and south to Panoche where he hunted deer, boar, duck, pheasant, quail and dove. He loved hiking and fishing in his favorite areas near Huntington and the Kaiser Wilderness in pursuit of trout. Other trips took him deep sea fishing or lake trolling. Wintertime found him on the slopes downhill skiing. One very special adventure included trekking, canoeing, jeeping into the wilds of Africa. It was in these wild open spaces that he loved the feeling of calm, quite the contrast of his ever-ready energy.

Mike lived a great life. We'll miss you, Pops, Dad, Gabe, Giddu.

Services will be private followed by a "Tailgate Gathering" at a later date.
Memorial contributions to Community Pantry, Hazel Hawkins Hospital Foundation are welcome. Condolences: www.grunnagle.com