The lacrosse world mourns the loss of William Christian ‘Big Gabe’ Gabrielsen Sr., 85, popular Wings fan, supporter

Phillylacrosse.com, Published 7/20/22 From the funeral home

William Christian “Big Gabe” Gabrielsen Sr., known as a popular Philadelphia Wings fan and supporter, died peacefully in his sleep July 17 at the Belvedere Homestead in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was 85 years old.

Big Gabe has spent tens of thousands of miles on the road watching the lacrosse, football and field hockey games of his children and grandchildren. He regularly sailed the East Coast, dividing his time between Philadelphia and Marlboro, VT.

William Christian “Big Gabe” Gabrielsen Sr.

Although he never had the chance to play it, his three children and the game of lacrosse became the passion of his life. Big Gabe was something of a celebrity fan of the Wings, where his second son, Scott, was captain and 5-time world champion, from 1988 to 1998. Thousands of fans knew Big Gabe for his red suspenders and his famous cheering of “WINGS” where 17,000 fans roared. Sharing the love of sport and bringing thousands of people together in harmony and positivity was his personal mission.

Born April 10, 1937 in Denville NJ, Big Gabe grew up in Denville and Mountain Lakes, with a life 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 raised in Maspeth, NY. They married in 1928. He had a sister, Helene Sparks, who was seven years older whom he adored.

Big Gabe was a college athlete and had a lifelong love of sports. He was valedictorian of Admiral Farragut Academy (a military prep school in Pine Beach, NJ) and was inducted into its Hall of Fame as a football, basketball, and baseball star.

Big Gabe attended the United States Naval Academy and in 1959 graduated as a naval engineer and aviator. In the Navy, he rowed and played basketball. He was particularly proud of his years with the Varsity Navy Crew, which included time rowing in boats with the famous members of the 1960 Olympic gold medal-winning team. After graduating from the Naval Academy, he was selected for the flying school in Pensacola, Florida, for training as a fighter pilot.

Bill “Big Gabe” Gabrielsen with fellow Philadelphia Wings superfans Chopper (left) and the Big E at the Wells Fargo Center

After the Navy, Big Gabe headed to what he called “the best city in the world” – New York City – where he matched the intensity and optimism of The Big Apple. He began his career with Westinghouse Corporation in 1960, then held international sales positions with Sandvik Steel, Inc., where he was posted in Sweden and Spain. He built a long career in the elevator industry, culminating with Armor Elevator in Philadelphia, PA. Among his proudest professional accomplishments are his roles in modernizing the elevator systems at Suburban Station, 7 Penn Center and the Bellevue Stratford Hotel.

As an entrepreneur, Big Gabe bought a franchise of sales consultants in New Brunswick, NJ, which he grew to become the first nationwide branch. In Vermont, he founded Marlboro Properties, a real estate company. He was also a co-founder of BG Sports/Finncrosse, a summer lacrosse camp company that hosted Avalon’s first-ever lacrosse camp.

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

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

The 1993 CHUP Philly championship team at the Stowe, Vermont shootout. Team Chup won the $10,000 tournament winner. Big Gabe, seen on the far right, was instrumental in setting up the tournament, which brought together many Philly Hall of Famers.

Big Gabe is survived by his three children, William Christian Gabrielsen, Jr. (his wife Joy and his 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 his first wife, Betts Gabrielsen Mayer. He was predeceased by his wife, Mimi in 2020.

Relatives and friends are invited to his visit on Thursday, August 11, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the SS. Peter and Paul Church 1325 E. Boot Rd. West Chester, PA 19380, followed by his funeral mass at 11:00 a.m.

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

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

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2022 at 1:26 p.m. and is filed under Boys/Men, Pro. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.