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Violence in Afghanistan felt in Crystal Lake

Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014 12:03 a.m. CDT
(AP Photo)
Slain American John Gabel (from left), his mother, Betty, and his father, Gary Gabel, who was also killed, are seen in Afghanistan. An Afghan police security guard opened fire on foreigners April 24 as they entered the grounds of Cure International Hospital, killing three people, including pediatrician Dr. Jerry Umanos of Chicago. John Gabel’s wife, also an American, was wounded.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Recent violence in Afghanistan has reverberated to Crystal Lake, as news this week spread and stirred emotions in the community about the death of a suburban father and son.

Gary Gabel, a graduate of Crystal Lake Central High School in 1975, traveled from his home in Arlington Heights to Kabul, Afghanistan, last week to visit his son, John Gabel, who ran a small clinic in the war-torn capital.

The two visited a Kabul hospital with a Chicago pediatrician, who shared their interest in the Afghan people, when an Afghan police security guard opened fire on the group as they entered the hospital grounds. Gary and John Gabel, along with Dr. Jerry Umanos, were killed, while John Gabel's wife – also an American – was wounded.

On Wednesday, a brother-in-law to the Gabel family said family members were not ready to comment on the incident.

Calls earlier in the week to Gary Gabel's brother, an assistant principal at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, and to Gary Gabel's sister, who lives in McHenry County, were unanswered.

"They've asked for their space," said District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz, adding Gary Gabel's brother, Glen Gabel, remains out of the office. "Right now, we are supporting him and his family with whatever they need."

As the Gabel family mourns the loss of their loved ones, former classmates of Gary Gabel remembered him as a friendly, kind and gentle man.

John Greener, who kept in touch with Gary Gabel on-and-off in the years since graduating Crystal Lake Central, recalled how Gabel sat two rows behind him in band during their years at North Junior High, now known as Richard Bernotas Middle School.

He said Gabel was an overall good person into adulthood. Other classmates from the class of 1975 remembered Gabel as being a genuine person.

"He was truly a nice, kind, gentle man – a good family man," Greener said. "When national news like this hits locally, it really wakes you up."

Gary Gabel recently sang in a church choir, was involved with church youth groups and the leadership team at the Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights.

John Gabel had directed the clinic for two years under an agreement between Kabul University and Colorado Springs-based charity Morning Star Development.

What prompted the Afghan guard to fire on the Americans was not clear, but recently there have been a number of so-called insider attacks – incidents in which Afghan security forces fire on their comrades or foreign trainers or civilians. Violence increased in Afghanistan ahead of the NATO withdrawal and also in the weeks leading up to the country’s April 5 election.

Whether John Gabel’s young daughter, Laila, and mother, Betty, were along for the visit to the Cure International Hospital in Kabul remains unclear. Umanos, who trained young doctors and cared for pediatric patients at the hospital, had invited the family as his guests.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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