On Monday I received a call from a friend that one of my friends and teammates from college, Gabe Proctor, committed suicide. Initially I was in shock. It was so hard to fully comprehend the magnitude of such an event, to wholly understand that I will never be able to see his cheeky grin again. Most likely I will never completely grasp that realization, but I have come to better terms with that fact. Other than a deep sadness, I have found it hard to express myself. There have been tears shed, but I over the last few days I have been drawn to the good times I had with Gabe. Death is sad, especially one that is taken much too soon, but I believe it is better to celebrate the life of ones who have passed.
I first met Gabe on a trip to the OSU Jamboree. We stopped in Garden City, Kansas to run with the Garden City Community College team. It was a good place to break up the 12 hour drive to Stillwater, and besides there was a good recruit that Jen was interested in. I do not remember much of the run that day besides that Gabe ran with us and it was ungodly windy, being Kansas and all. Gabe was quiet, but the coach had nothing but good things to say about him. He worked hard and was a team leader. I think later Gabe told me that it was that run which confirmed his decision to come to Western.
That next summer he came to Gunnison and had a great cross country season, cumulating with a top ten finish at nationals. He was quiet, and it took a while for him to open up to the team, but he always brought a positive energy to practice. Unfortunately I was hurt for most of that fall, so I did not get to know him too well until the spring. We started running nearly ever day together, as we both focused on similar events in track. Most of my running log days have something along the lines of, “with Gabe” in them.
It was the next year that holds some of the best memories I have with Gabe. I was student teaching, so I was not running everyday with the team, but I remember Gabe telling me he purposely took a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays during practice, so he would have an excuse to workout with me. I remember at regionals, not feeling great, I told Gabe to go for the win. We were clear of the pack, but there was an Adams State guy still with us and I knew he cared more about us crossing the line together than winning.
That spring we set our sights on running well in the 10,000m at Nationals. Once again he scheduled classes on Tuesday and Thursday during practice. One workout that I remember is right before I went out to Stanford for my debut 10,000m, Gabe and I did a 400m workout on the track. We ended up running around 10,000m pace, and after I remember Gabe saying, “You’re going to kill it dude.” He always had so much faith in everyone. He always saw the positive and wanted the best for others. At nationals that year, we ended up going 1st and 3rd. I crossed the line and gave him a big hug. I know he wanted 2nd, but it was a big step forward for him. A year later, he gave me a call right after he was outkicked for the indoor 5,000m title. He was upset and I tried to convince him that outdoor would be different; Western always runs better outdoors. He told me his was going to win the 5 and 10. He not only did that, but also went undefeated for the season, including a win at the Mt. SAC Relays. Gabe was determined when he set his mind on a goal.
Over the past few years I have less of Gabe, as we were living on opposite sides of the country, but I was always excited when we were going to race together. Usually we would try to find time to go for a run, either before or after the race. Looking back now, I had some great memories with Gabe, but the best were just the everyday runs on the trails and roads of Gunnison. There is not a specific day that stands out, but the hours and miles we spent together both doing something that we truly enjoyed. Those will be the ones that I will be most fond of when remembering Gabe.
This weekend the running community has lost a fantastic athlete and person for the sport. My fellow Mountaineers and Broncobusters lost a friend and teammate. My condolences go out to Gabe’s family, both in the US and Ethiopia. I cannot imagine the sorrow of loosing a family member to suicide.
RIP Gabe “Master P”
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Before signing off, here is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, even if it is not for yourself:
It is always better to get help; it is always better to reach out. There is always something to find worth living for.
Also I would encourage anyone to donate to Hope for Youth Ethiopia in Gabe’s name. I know that Gabe was very concerned about the situation in Ethiopia and wanted the best for his home country.
Hope for Youth Ethiopia
PO Box 7306
Longview, Texas, 75607-7306
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And when you wake up
Everything is gonna be fine
Guarantee that you wake in a better place, in a better time
So you’re tired of living feel like you might give in
It’s not your time
A Better Place, A Better Time