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Merrick military, broadcast veteran remembered

Michael Gabriele recalls his father looking inward toward the end of his life


Vincent J. Gabriele, of North Merrick, was a delegator. Whatever organization he joined, or cause he threw his weight behind, he insisted on taking charge — and the results spoke for themselves, according to his son Michael.

Vincent died on Jan. 10, at 91, after a life marked by service, piety and business acumen, Michael said. A U.S. Navy veteran who served in World War II, a live television engineer and broadcast union official, Vincent was a strict disciplinarian, with little time for fun.

“He had a firm grasp on what he believed to be true, and a good moral compass,” Michael said. “And once he was involved in something, he knew how to shape it up, exactly how to put it in order. He would take a read of an organization, basically restructure it, rebuild it and make it a success.”

Vincent’s way of life meant that Michael learned to be handy, and understood how business worked from an early age; he and his father shared few fishing trips or ballgames.

“I basically had tools in my hand since I was 8,” he said. “He used to take me around, talking real estate and business ventures when I was 15 or 16.”

Family meetings were even run by parliamentary procedure, Mich-ael recalled. “There had to be prior minutes, new business, motions and all that,” he said. “That was his way of running the show. He’d say this was how it’s done in government and everything else.”

And so, Michael said, he followed suit, with an identical work ethic. Alongside his brother, and under their father’s mentorship, he had built and was managing seven laundromats by age 23. Today, at age 65, he’s “down to three.”

Vincent never spoke about his naval service, Michael said, but in the years following, he went to work for WNBC-TV as a videotape engineer, where he spent 32 years. During those years, he engineered the slow-motion replays for live sports programming, and worked on “Saturday Night Live.”

He became a manager for the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, then the secretary treasurer — he ran the employees’ credit union, lending money as needed.

“He loved books and numbers; he was very structured in his thinking,” Michael said. “He could have been anything, and he did just about everything.”

An engineer who worked under Vincent years ago came to his funeral on Jan. 15. “He wasn’t much older than me, really,” Michael said. “He saw my father’s name in the paper and had to pay his respects, because of the kind of mentor my father was to the younger engineers.”

Vincent’s repertoire of jobs and activities — also including serving as commander of Merrick American Legion Post 1282, which had a sizable membership increase under his leadership, a Cub Scout leader for many years and the owner of a number of businesses — began to thin only in the last years of his life, after the death of his first wife, Adele, in 1983, and his second, Susie, in 2015.

“He was embarking on an entirely different experience,” Michael said. “He was now willing to look at himself introspectively . . . he was starting to see things as he mellowed tremendously. We’d all experienced a lot of family tragedy and death, and he was in a place where he had a lot of time to think.”

Michael and his father had robust debates about politics, religion and philosophy. If the two agreed, Vincent would play devil’s advocate just for love of “the jousting,” Michael said.

In the last years of his life, the two had frank talks about the afterlife, and about regret. Michael said his father was spiritual, but in a structured way: “He liked the Masses, the rituals and the Bibles.” But by the time the end was near, Vincent wanted to look at his flaws and regrets and address them honestly, his son said.

“He was well aware of his skeletons, and regretted them, and prayed heavily for forgiveness,” Michael said. “We’re not gonna go to the afterlife with our list of credentials; we’re gonna go with what’s in our hearts.”

The two dived headlong together into the topics of eternity, God’s love and forgiveness, Michael said, until his father’s last 10 or so days, when his health failed.

One of the last things Vincent said to his family, Michael learned after his death, was a promise. A family member was having some personal issues, and Vincent said, “‘If you feel yourself slipping, reach out to me, and I’ll reach across and help,’” Michael said.

Besides Michael and his wife, Joanne, Gabriele is survived by a son, Donald; grandchildren Christine and Michael (Kathleen); great-grandchildren Vanessa, Samantha and Patrick, and step-grandchildren Theodore and Elijah.