William Christian Gabrielsen Sr

williamWilliam Christian Gabrielsen Sr., known as Big Gabe, died peacefully in his sleep on July 17, 2022, at the Belvedere Homestead in Chester, PA.  He was 85 years old.  

Born on April 10, 1937, in Denville NJ, he grew up in Denville and Mountain Lakes, with a lifetime of summers spent along the Jersey Shore.  His father, Hans Christian Gabrielsen (Chris), was born in Bergen, Norway and was an engineer and patent-holding inventor with the William Rowe Company. Helen Schlegelmilch, his mother, was born in Bremen, Germany and grew up in Maspeth, NY.  They were married in 1928.  He had one sister, Helene Sparks, who was seven years older whom he adored. 

Big Gabe was scholar-athlete and held a love of sports his entire life. He was valedictorian of Admiral Farragut Academy (a military preparatory school in Pine Beach, NJ) and was inducted in its Hall of Fame as a football, basketball, and baseball star.

Gabrielsen attended the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1959 with an engineering degree and as a naval aviator. At Navy he rowed crew and played basketball.  He was especially proud of his years on the Varsity Navy Crew team which included time rowing in boats with the famed members of the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal team.  After graduating from the Naval Academy, he was selected for Flight School in Pensacola, FL for fighter pilot training.  

After the Navy, Big Gabe headed to what he called “the best city in the world” -- New York City — where he matched The Big Apple’s intensity and optimism. He began his career with Westinghouse Corporation in 1960, followed by roles in international sales at Sandvik Steel, Inc. where he was posted in Sweden and Spain. In 1961 he married Betts Shanhouse and moved to Ridgewood, NJ and started his family. He built a long career in the elevator industry, culminating with Armor Elevator in Philadelphia, PA.  Among his proudest professional accomplishments were his roles in helping modernize the elevator systems in high-rises throughout Center City, most notably Suburban Station, 7 Penn Center, and The Bellevue Stratford Hotel.

As an entrepreneur, Big Gabe purchased a franchise of Sales Consultants in New Brunswick, NJ that he grew into the top branch nationally. In Vermont, he founded Marlboro Properties, a real estate company. He was also co-founder of BG Sports/Finncrosse, a summer lacrosse camp company that ran the first-ever Avalon Lacrosse Camp. 

In 1967, the family purchased a 1791 Vermont farmhouse named Overlook Farm, and for next half century Big Gabe called Vermont home. He was remarried to Constance Schultz Ostrow, known as Mimi. They shared a deep love of nature, music and gardening. On Overlook Farm, they often grew 200 types of flowers, and won awards for the tallest sunflower in southern Vermont.  

Big Gabe chopped his own wood, carried water for his gravity-fed plumbing, hand mowed acres of fields and was passionate about repairing the many stone walls of his 125 acre property. He was revered for his special connection to animals and calm ability to befriend wildlife. 

Big Gabe spent tens of thousands of miles on the road watching his children and grandchildren’s lacrosse, football and field hockey games.  He regularly navigated the eastern seaboard, splitting time between Philadelphia and Marlboro, VT.  Although he never had the chance to play it, his three children and the game of lacrosse became his life’s passion. Big Gabe was somewhat of a celebrity-fan of the professional indoor lacrosse team, the Philadelphia Wings, where his second son, Scott, was Captain and 5 time World Champion, from 1988-1998.  Thousands of fans knew Big Gabe for his red suspenders and famous cheer of “W. I. N.G.S.” where 17,000 fans would roar. Sharing the love of the sport and bringing thousands together in harmony and positivity was his personal mission.

He is survived by his three children, William Christian Gabrielsen, Jr. (his wife Joy and children Sonja, Will, and Hans), James Scott Gabrielsen (his wife Cathy Bosken Gabrielsen and their sons Jimmy and Cole), Erika Gabrielsen Neumann (husband Topher Neumann and children Eva and Nate) as well as first wife, Betts Gabrielsen Mayer.  He was pre-deceased by his wife, Mimi in 2020. 

Relatives and friends are invited to his visitation on Thursday, August 11, 2022 from 9:30 am - 10:45 am at SS. Peter & Paul Church 1325 E. Boot Rd. West Chester, PA 19380,  followed by his Funeral Mass at 11:00 am.

Interment will be in St. Agnes Cemetery West Chester PA.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to family-founded charitable organizations: Connect Thru Cancer (formerly Cuddle My Kids) or The Infinite Kindness Project.  Additionally, donations can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.