Cleveland to name park after late commissioner

Published 12:07 am Thursday, April 20, 2023

CLEVELAND — How to honor a man who never sought credit or the spotlight for anything he did could be a challenge, but Cleveland town officials made the effort by deciding to name a park after the late commissioner Danny Gabriel. 

During a memorial fish fry at the Cleveland Community Volunteer Fire Department, town officials announced plans to name the area next to the Rowan Public Library after Gabriel, who died on April 6.

In the two weeks since, Gabriel’s family members indicate they have seen an outpouring of support from the town that exceeded every expectation. 

“You would not believe it,” his wife, Gina Gabriel, said. “I knew how I felt about Danny. I knew people loved him and the good things he did and how good he was, but man, I never knew just how much. It’s so heartwarming but overwhelming all at the same time.”

According to Gabriel and numerous others, at the center of everything her husband did was his beloved hometown of Cleveland.

“He was so humble,” Gabriel said. “He didn’t take kudos for anything. He did it because he loved Cleveland. He loved his fire department, and he loved everybody in Cleveland. He didn’t have anybody that he didn’t consider a friend.”

Gabriel’s sister, Janice Booe, indicated that is just how things are in Cleveland.  

“Everybody is family,” Booe said. “Anybody raised in Cleveland knew him and his family. His funeral was wonderful, with the support of the commissioners and all the town. Today is going to be a happy day. It’s for Danny.”

To actually be Danny’s family was a privilege, though, according to his little brother, Perry, who lives in Concord now but would still stop by whenever he was in town to visit his late parents’ gravesite. 

“When Danny went somewhere, as his little brother, I always asked if I could go,” Gabriel said. “Most of the time, you think siblings don’t want their little brother or sister to go with ya, but Danny was never that type.”

An appropriate memorial

A plate of fried fish was fitting for a man who loved the beach and fishing. Gabriel’s love of the beach will linger for eternity, thanks to plans that his wife has in store. 

“Early marriage, you know you talk about plans, but you aren’t thinking about them,” Gabriel said. “We were married for 44 and half years. This was early on, he wanted to be buried and I wanted to be cremated. We had to get to a happy medium. Just out of the blue one day, he said, ‘I have really been thinking, I would like to be cremated, too.'”

Of course, as they got to thinking about it, other questions came up, but Gabriel always had an answer for her husband. 

“A few days later, he said, what are you going to do with me if I pass first?” Gabriel said. “I said I’m going to keep you, and he thought that was weird. He asked why, and I said so that when I pass, Ashley (daughter) can take us to the beach and scatter our ashes.”

For the avid beachgoers, that final destination just made sense. 

“We like the N.C. coast and North Myrtle Beach,” Gabriel said. “I just found out when we did his service that it is illegal to dump ashes on the beach, but you can take them in a boat, and they will take you out and put you in a biodegradable bag and let you have a little goodbye. So Ashley is going to do that. I told her to pick the beach. As long as we’re on the beach together, we’re good.”

In the meantime, Gabriel has a personal getaway planned to her and Danny’s happy place.

“I’m going to take his vial to the beach so we can have our last trip together,” Gabriel said.