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Commack Classmates Remember 'Gabe' for His Big Smile, Heart

Commack alumni share their memories of Gabriel Philby-Zetsche, 22, who was killed in an upstate home shared with his mother.

Since news of Gabriel Philby-Zetsche's death reached Long Island, his former classmates hae turned out to grieve the loss of a friend known for always having a big smile and an even bigger heart. 

Philby-Zetsche, 22, a 2009 Commack High School graduate who lived with cerebral palsy, His mother has been charged with his murder.

"An open heart and an eager smile is the best way to describe Gabe. Physically, he was limited, but emotionally he has a gift. He knew exactly how to make your day better each and every time he say you," said Vinny Galiano, who Gabe called 'a brother' on his Facebook page

Philby-Zetsche's Facebook page has been transformed into an online memorial over the past few days, as family, friends and former classmates have flocked to the site to post their final goodbyes and memories of better times. 

"Gabe grew up in the house next to mine. The same house his mom grew up in. He was constantly challenging me to a game of HORSE or one-on-one [basketball]. Whenever I said 'no' he would cackle a few times and call me chicken," wrote Jason D`Angelo. 

At Commack High School, his former classmates say Philby-Zetche, commonly called 'Gabe,' had a large circle of friends. He served as team manager for the varsity boys' bowling team. Despite having cerebral palsy, Commack grad Dylan Russo said the team even learned a few pointers from Gabe. 

"I was a part of the Commack varsity bowling team for 6 years and one of the years Gabe was our team manager. That was one of the most memorable ones, because of him being there and making everyone laugh, we even taught him how to bowl a little," Russo said.

But it was Gabe's smile and friendly greeting, according to Russo, that won everyone over.

"Every time he saw his friends, he would have a big smile on; everyone in the school was Gabe's friend. He would always come up to you and say 'What up son!' and when he walked away he would yell, 'Peace!' and give you a slap on the back," Russo said. 

Robby Brown said that after news of Philby-Zetsche's death reached Long Island, several of his friends gathered to share memories and talk about his death. 

Brown wrote down his thoughts: 

Gabe was everyone's close friend who you could count on to make you smile each and every day. What made Gabe so special was his overwhelming love for all of those close to him. Unlike most high school kids that I knew, Gabe's appreciation for you as a friend and his genuine care for you was what set him apart from other kids. Not often do you find someone as kind as Gabe was. 

And I was lucky enough to have him as a friend.

I'll miss you Gabe, myself and all the guys will always remember you for who you were, a true friend. 

"Gabe had always adopted everything in my life, good or bad, as if it was his own. My family instantly became a part of his," Galiano said. 

He praised Philby-Zetsche for always having a positive attitude, despite facing 'a ton of struggles' and having true heartfelt love for everyone. 

When Galiano started up the clothing brand line 'Dopest' in May 2012, he said Philby-Zetsche was one of his biggest supporters and adopted the brand. Philby-Zetsche even gave himself the title "King at Dopest."

That's OK by Galiano, who said Gabe was "without question the absolute inspiration behind it." 

"I, without a doubt, consider myself both luck and blessed to have spent the time with Gabe that I did. He brought out the best in me as I'm sure he did for many others. I can thank Gabe for showing me what a difference a person like him can make in so many different people's lives," said Galiano. 

pbug56 August 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Anyone hear anything from Commack School District yet? We've lot yet another graduate, but they don't seem to care in the slightest. I guess once they get you out the door you are forever forgotten!
Robert Gardner August 03, 2012 at 02:03 PM
grow up pbug
A Commack Teacher August 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Most Commack teachers that I know love their students...I adore mine! Many of us keep in touch with our students after they graduate. Gabe was not my student but I saw him everyday and he left a great impression on me. We hurt when our students are hurt. It rips a hole through our heart when they die...

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