Cleveland commissioner Gabriel dies at age 66 after serving nearly three decades

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

CLEVELAND — The town of Cleveland is mourning the loss of one of its native sons after Commissioner Danny Gabriel died on Thursday after a bout with pancreatic cancer.

He was 66.

Gabriel served on the Cleveland Board of Commissioners for nearly three decades. He was also the mayor for a short stint. Those who worked with Gabriel at town hall remember him as a man who didn’t do anything for the recognition but only because he believed it was the right thing to do.

“He cared about everybody,” said John Bradford, one of Gabriel’s fellow commissioners. Bradford described Gabriel as an honest, gentle soul.

Commissioner Richard Taylor added, “(Gabriel) was always such an easygoing and easy to get along with type of person. He had a lot of positive influence on things. We will miss that and miss him.”

Mayor Pro Tem Travis Summitt worked with Gabriel at the Cleveland Fire Department and said that’s where he got to know him really well. Summitt said it was through Gabriel’s guidance he even decided to run for office.

“I talked with Danny because I respected him so much,” Summitt said. “When I did run and got on the board, he was always one I looked to for advice about how to conduct myself and talk during the meetings.”

Summitt expressed gratitude for having shared a recent encounter with Gabriel.

“The day before he passed, I stopped by his house,” Summitt said. “He was having a really good day. I got to talk to him for a while. It was the old Danny I remember. That is the last picture I have of him, and I will cherish that.”

Commissioner Gerald Osborne recalled a young Gabriel working in the community grocery store as a teenager in the early 1970s. Now the trouble of moving forward without Gabriel faces the board.

“We are all having to adjust to Danny being gone,” Osborn said.

Like those on the board, Mayor Patrick Phifer and Gabriel went way back.

“I have never not known Danny,” Phifer said. “It’s killing me. He was like a brother to me. We’re all family here.”

There are many things Phifer will miss, but he will always remember the man who never did anything for the credit.

“Danny was one person that never needed to get patted on the back,” Phifer said. “He just took care of stuff because it needed to be done.”

Gabriel’s absence will be felt as the board convenes on Monday for a regularly scheduled meeting, but as the mayor put it, the whole town is at a loss.

“We didn’t just lose a commissioner,” Phifer said. “We lost a good friend.”