Gerald Ness Matthew Gabay (known as Jerry Gabay) was born October 6, 1944 in Phoenix, Ariz. He died March 14, 2020 when visiting friends and a nephew there. Despite being diagnosed with cancer five years ago he maintained a high quality of life. Jerry attained an undergraduate degree from Stanford University. After graduation he served during the Viet Nam War as an officer in the US Coast Guard. Following his military service, he attained a law degree through the University of Oregon. His first major law position was as a public defender in Baker City, Ore. He later moved to The Dalles where he served as a public defense lawyer before entering the Peace Corps in 1984. There he taught French and history and coached basketball in Malawi, Africa for two years. Upon returning to the US and obtaining a teaching certificate, he began his teaching career as a middle school teacher at WyEast Middle School in Odell. In 1989 he began a family, marrying Susan Blake Kofahl, and welcoming the birth of his greatest joy and his only child, Susanna. He considered being a father his most important job but he had a quite a diverse employment history following her birth: seasonal national park ranger at Mt Rainier, Ore., State and US Forestry positions, founding director of the first AmeriCorps project in Trout Lake, Wash., and director of Nuestra Comunidad Sana in the Gorge. Passionate social justice advocates, Jerry and daughter Susanna spent 6 months volunteering at a social and health clinic outside Antigua, Guatemala 2002-2003. Jerry later acquired an ESL teaching certificate, working for The Dalles School District #12 until his retirement in 2008. Continuing his love of travel, he subsequently taught English in Slovakia, Ecuador, and more recently a brief time in Spain. His greatest tragedy was losing his daughter to suicide in 2010 following her 5-year struggle with mental illness. Thus began Jerry’s fierce advocacy for people, especially youth, with mental illness. Collaborating with various organizations and his local legislator in Portland, Alissa Keny-Guyer, he promoted suicide prevention and assisted in successfully passing beneficial legislation to protect against overly legalistic readings of HIPPA guidelines in favor of supportive communication between families and mental health providers.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Susan, in Mosier and several nieces and nephews throughout the West. He developed many friendships in the Gorge, Portland, and all over the world. There is much more to be said about Jerry and a community memorial service will be planned later in the year when feasible for his family members, friends, and our community.