If you knew Gabriel “Gabe” Ryan Maness, you liked him, and if you got to know him, you loved him, said Rick Maness, his younger brother.
In the days after Gabe was killed in a fatal shooting at the Norge Farm Fresh, Rick said his family is making sure the Williamsburg community can get to know who his brother was and the tragedy of his death.
“I think it’s going to be important for the community to share his story and understand what was actually lost that day,” Rick said. “It’s just terrible.”
Rick recalled his brother as someone who attracted “attention and people,” not just for his size – he was 6-feet-4-inches tall – but also for his personality.
“Gabe is the nicest guy you will ever meet,” Rick said. “He’s funny, he’s animated…he’s just one of those guys that you want to be around.”
But for Rick, Gabe’s most admirable qualities were his care and compassion.
Gabe was not the typical teenager, he said. When he turned 16, the first thing he wanted to do was get a job, Rick said. But rather than spend his paycheck on clothes, video games or a cell phone, he cashed it and gave the money to his mother, who was raising her sons while she went back to school for a teaching degree.
“He was more concerned about our mother and us as a family than himself,” Rick said.
Gabe continued to support his family after he graduated high school and joined the U.S. Army, earning enough money to buy Rick a car. Not only did he buy the car, but he also burned Sublime CDs for Rick and stowed them in the glove box so he’d have music to listen to while driving.
“That car wasn’t enough,” Rick said. “I can see him thinking, ‘What else can I do?’”
Gabe’s aunt, Mary Fehlker, agreed that Gabe would go the extra mile to express his love for his family. She recalled one day when, as a child, he visited her house to play with her son and brought a hand-made gift. The two figures he made out of cereal boxes remain displayed at Fehlker’s home to this day.
“In his mind he wanted to make sure I knew he appreciated coming up to play,” Fehlker said.
Gabe met his wife of 12 years, Kristy, while at Fort Eustis. The two married shortly after they met and have one daughter, Brielle, and another on the way – their second child is due May 13, a month after Gabe’s birthday.
The family recently moved from Williamsburg to Providence Forge in New Kent. Rick called Gabe the “engine that made the house run,” working in heating, ventilation and air conditioning while also caring for Brielle as “Mr. Mom” when Kristy was deployed.
Rick said Gabe loved living and working in Virginia and being there showed him how far he’d come since the challenges of his childhood in Missouri.
“I think it just reminds him of everything that’s wonderful in life,” Rick said. “Virginia for him is kind of like a rebirth. He was able to rise above it and change his life.”
Gabe loved baseball, especially the St. Louis Cardinals, and working on cars, Rick said. But more recently, his favorite pastime was “spoiling his girls” with treats like doughnuts and ice cream, Rick said.
“He was the whole world for those girls,” Rick said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s going to look like for her, how she’s going to start to go forward, especially because of how everything happened.”
Nearly $10,000 had been raised as of Wednesday afternoon to support the family via two GoFundMe campaigns, one organized by Rick and another organized by Warhill High School teacher Lindsay Dalius. More than $2,500 has been raised in a separate GoFundMe campaign to help cover the cost for Rick and his mother to travel from St. Louis to Virginia to assist with the funeral.
“I’ve been inundated with people who want to help,” Rick said. “That makes me feel a lot better, to confirm how loved he was.”
Fehlker said she wants the Williamsburg community to know how sweet and loving Gabe was and how he “just did the right thing” by caring for his family. She said the family always knew he was “special and lovable,” but his death “really makes you appreciate him even more.”
“I think everything happens for a reason, but we’re all having a difficult time right now figuring out what it is,” Fehlker said.
The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Vincent Funeral Home, located at 9923 Pocahontas Trail in Providence Forge. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations to the family may be sent to P.O. Box 14291 in Newport News.