Gabriel Salvador

This is the hardest piece of writing I have ever been subject to. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine having to write my brother’s obituary.

College essays were always difficult, but at least you were free from reliving memories of those you love so dearly who are not here with you anymore. You at least have a starting and ending point; but writing about a loved one is not easy but full of sadness and tears. The thoughts and memories keep rolling through my mind, and they will for as long as I live.

My parent’s son and my brother, Gabriel Juan Salvador, was born Aug. 22, 1972 in Santa Barbara to John and Rosalie Salvador. When Gabe was born he entered the world crying and weighed shy of 10 lbs. The doctors and nurses couldn’t believe how big he was. They said, “He looks like he’s already three months old.”

My dad wanted to name him Roman Gabriel after the Filipino NFL football player for the Los Angeles Rams. However, my dad’s brother’s wife, Auntie Mary, was pregnant at the same time and they wanted to name their son Roman (if they were to have a boy), after our Filipino grandfather. Well, they ended up having a boy, too.

With the help of our grandma Jessie, she took hold of God’s Holy Bible and opened it up looking for a name. She came across Gabriel and our mom approved. They named their only son, Gabriel Juan Salvador.

Gabriel Salvador

Gabe was a big stocky kid when he was young, but, he was very gentle and shy. As a kid growing up in the ’70s, he was as free as a bird riding his black and red Huffy bike all around the neighborhood. Our weekends were spent watching cartoons every Saturday morning. As Christmas approached, we loved watching all the Christmas cartoons while Gabe couldn’t wait for Santa Claus to arrive.

Our weekends were filled with freedom: riding our bikes, rollerskating, skateboarding, going to the beach, playing with our neighborhood friends, going to the movies, buying candy and ice cream from the corner store, and so much more.

The time came for Gabe to go to school. He attended kindergarten at Harding School and later became a San Roque Rocket and a Notre Dame Saint.

During his elementary school years he loved any body of water. It’s ironic that a little boy who was terrified of swim lessons would yearn for the ocean. As kids, Gabe and I spent many summer days at Aqua Camp, Hendry’s Beach, Los Banos and the kiddie pool at Oak Park. It’s funny because even though Gabe was 10 or 11 he would still love to swim at Oak Park’s kiddie pool.

After eighth-grade graduation, our parents decided it would be best for Gabe to attend San Marcos High school. There he made many friends that would become lifelong friends. As a Royal he played soccer, basketball and volleyball. He was a good athlete and was a great asset to the Royals volleyball team with his blocking skills. In 1991 Gabe and his volleyball teammates conquered the CIF volleyball title for Southern California.

After high school Gabe attended SBCC for a short while. He worked at Goleta Valley Athletic Club for a time before moving to San Francisco to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter/paramedic. He was sure built for the profession: big, strong, courageous and caring.

My brother always had a love for the ocean, a love he inherited from our father. Our dad is an amazing scuba diver and would catch every living creature he could get his hands on.  We had a plethora of seafood in the house, it was crazy. Gabe loved to boogie board and was asked to go pro once. He loved the ocean. The smell of the sea brought life to Gabe; it refreshed him.

Gabe was also an avid free diver and loved it. He would catch everything: crabs, abalone, rock fish, and cabazon. During one abalone dive, he brought home a 10-inch abalone and was so proud of it. He loved being in the ocean; it made him feel alive and forget about everything that was troubling him.

He loved sharing his catch with his neighbors and anyone who loved seafood. The ocean was his happy place. When he was sick as a dog he would still go diving and would come home and tell his wife, “I didn’t feel sick at all in the water.”

It took some years for the training and studying as he kept his eyes on the prize of becoming a firefighter/paramedic. He was employed by the oldest ambulance company in San Francisco, King American Ambulance for the last 16 years. Gabe was promoted to lieutenant at King American as well as a paramedic for the San Francisco Fire Department.

He was so very skilled and good at what he did that his supervisors often placed him with new paramedics to show them how to do the job right. He has trained countless new employees emphasizing the importance of following protocols and procedures for professional patient care and for the safety of not only the patients but his fellow paramedics.

Gabe was passionate about teaching safe Code 3 driving techniques while navigating the streets of San Francisco. In fact, most King American employees can share a story of their first days on the job and the lessons Gabe taught them. My parents are proud to know their son was a true team player, always willing to stay late and work overtime whenever needed.

He was an incredibly motivated man who somehow always seemed to muster the energy, even after a long, busy shift, to go to the gym. Even when he would come home to Santa Barbara, he always made time for the gym. He kept fit and it paid off for what the future had in store.

During his years at King American, he worked many San Francisco Giants baseball games. The company wanted a paramedic who would represent the company respectfully. They always chose my brother Gabe. He would hang out in the dugout with the Giants, and was careful not to get star struck or cross the boundary of work.

He was lucky to work the years the Giants went to the World Series, 2010, 2012 and 2014. During these years he would call my mom and say, “Mom, put on TV, I am working the game and I am in the dugout.  Do you see me?”

At the beginning of Gabe’s diagnosis he was awarded the Star of Life award for his outstanding work as a paramedic. He was just diagnosed with cancer and started chemo and was not fit to attend. It’s ironic that a man who devoted his life to helping and saving peoples lives was now in the midst of a battle for his life.

Gabe met the love of his life Nikki Maples while they both worked at King American. They were just friends, but as time passed they fell in love and married on June 24, 2017 in beautiful Healdsburg, California. I was honored that they wanted me to marry them and that I did with great pride. It was one of Gabe’s happiest and proudest moments.

It was not long after their wedding that Gabe was diagnosed with Stage 4 adenocarcinoma of the upper gastric region. The doctors gave my brother three months to live but Gabe did not want to listen or believe in their timeline. Gabe was very stubborn and would not give in to anyone. It’s a good and bad trait to have, but in this case it was very good for the sake of cancer.

During this time, my brother made the most important decision of his life and placed his trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The Lord gave him an extra three years.

Seeing how fit and strong Gabe was, the doctors knew he could endure an intense aggressive regimen. He stoically endured 50 rounds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation.  This is not how you would want to spend your last years on this earth, but Gabe wanted to live for the sake of his wife Nikki, their two boys, and his parents.

He fought this battle like a true Olympic champion, not once giving up. 

You may not agree, but cancer saved my brother’s life. He was not a firm believer in Jesus Christ until cancer crept in to try and destroy him. However, that all changed that fateful February day when the doctor entered the room dumbfounded that this young, handsome, fit man had stage 4 cancer.

Gabe ran to the one who could save him and that is his God the creator.  He quickly found his home church, Spring Hills in Santa Rosa and loved it. God’s word was hope and life for him.

Gabe kicked cancer’s ass and won the battle. He did not lose. He would be mad if you said he lost the battle. He fought the battle with mighty strength with God holding him up with His righteous right hand. God never left his side, and my brother is now with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ forever.

I have hope because I know that my parents and I will see him again and we will be together forever in Heaven. 

Gabriel Juan Salvador, Paramedic #1217, won the battle on Sunday evening, Dec. 27, 2020. He grabbed hold of his Savior’s hand and was healed from cancer. Gabe is alive and free in Heaven, no more pain and suffering.

Gabe is survived by his wife Nikki, his son Ty, stepson Austin, parents John and Rosalie Salvador, sister Sharon and brother-in-law Alex Jegottka, nephews Milan and Gian Jegottka, and his grandmother Jessie Salvador. He also will be greatly missed by his wife’s family and friends in Santa Rosa, California, as well as many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

We will be celebrating his life at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 21 at South Coast Church, 5814 Cathedral Oaks Road, Goleta.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  — 2 Timothy 4:7-8