A quilt sewn by Gloria Suarez was the star of the show at the dedication of a memorial bench honoring her deceased son Gabriel at St. Francis High School Saturday. The quilt — accented by pieces of her deceased son Gabriel's clothing— will be given to his best friend, said Gloria.
“The pockets [on the quilt] are from the Ben Davis mechanic shirts he liked because they were so durable,” said Suarez. “They are his college clothes — the same ones he wore in high school. He wasn't a clothes horse.”
It is the fourth one she has made since he died in a plane crash in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Aug. 13, 2010 while training to be a professional pilot. The first two were given to his brothers and a third to Gabriel's girlfriend. She does her sewing in Gabe's old bedroom.
The family has been part of the south Santa Cruz County Catholic community for more than 30 years. His father Vic Suarez plans to retire in July from his position as Vice Principal at St. Francis, and the more than 60 people in attendance Saturday included Gabriel's childhood friends as well as school and government officials.
Retired flight instructor Dan Chauvet said he never had the chance to instruct Gabriel, but that an organization he is chairperson of helped pay for his flight lessons through scholarships.
“Today is a remembrance for me [of Gabe's life],” he said. “I knew him from church and we were very close. I wish I had had the chance to pass my lessons of mountain flying on to him, because it seems that his instructor didn't have the same ideas.”
Josh Taubert, who first met Gabe in elementary school, described casual days as kids playing video games. They remained friends until Gabe unfortunately met an early end.
“I flew with him a couple times as a civilian,” he said. “It's nice to be back and know that Gabe is still remembered. I went all through high school with him. He was my best friend.”
Greg Caput, County Supervisor representing South County, remembered taking over as coach of the track and field team in 1980 for Vic so he could spend more time with Gloria after one of Gabriel's brothers was born.
Plaques honoring donors to the school share the St. Francis High School Memorial Garden with the bench sits. Gabriel is the first student to be commemorated there.
Bishop Sylvester Ryan spoke and led prayers before blessing the memorial garden.
“This shows what it really means what it means to be part of the St. Francis community and to honor those that have contributed to the educational environment in any particular capacity,” said Ryan.