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JERRY PAUL GAWEL
June 22, 1944 – January 18, 2022
Lifelong resident of Johnstown PA, living his entire life on the same block of Virginia Avenue, where his parents and maternal grandparents had also made their home. Like many in the melting pot of the West End/Cambria City section of town, Jerry had Polish, Slovak and German heritage.
Born to Elizabeth (Shesko) and Peter Paul Gawel. As the oldest son, became the man of the house at age of 13 when his father passed at an early age. Preceded in death by parents and younger brother Robert Gawel, with whom in their younger days together they were known as “Big Moss” and “Little Moss” by family and friends.
Survived by wife Shirley Jean (Gates) Gawel and three sisters Shirley Brazill (wife of David) in Johnstown; Dorothy Randall (wife of William) in Albertville, Alabama; and Lora Wagner (widow of Michael) of Jamestown PA. Father of three children and their spouses, Kimberly Ann (Kimmi) and husband Gerard (Jerry) Campagna of Johnstown, Eric Michael Gawel; and wife Christine (Evanisko) of Matamoras PA; and Mark Gawel and wife Susan (Shank) of Indiana PA. Also survived by five grandchildren, Marianna (Campagna) Golias, Conner Evan, Chloe Erica, Elizabeth and Matthew Gawel; and one great-grandchild, Mason Michael Golias; special nieces and nephews Roxanne and David Brazill, Janice (Randall) Davenport and William and Kenneth Randall, Robert Gawel and Stacey (Gawel) Hill, George and Chad McMillan, Christy and Ryan Gates, and numerous other nieces, nephews and great- nephews & nieces.
About his life: You may not have known Jerry, but his skillset can be found in many buildings and projects throughout all of Johnstown and beyond where he designed and installed both structural and ornamental iron and steel and was a self-taught master welder, and ornamental iron artisan. Jerry could design structure in his mind that today computers are needed to calculate. He was among the shrinking number of true lifelong Steelworkers and “west-enders” who came of age in the 1960s, going straight from high school to work. His employers included Sender’s Ornamental Iron Works in Tanneryville, Griffith & Custer in Woodvale and Consolidated Steel in Windber. He also served in the National Guard in his younger days. One of his last larger projects was structural steel for Hershey Medical Center. Yet he was always the man who’s name you never knew, and the one who never received the true value of his contributions and skills.
Like many of his contemporaries, Jerry loved his polkas, his mother (our “Baba”) and his beer. Sunday mornings in the house meant polkas blaring, dad singing, and the smell of bacon from the stove. For a time he even went by the nickname “Captain Baba” when he would banter with the on air disc jockey on AM radio. Sundays usually also meant company, especially Uncle Bob (“Little Moss”) and Uncle Dave stopping by, where the first thing he would say is “let me see what I have good”…meaning what treats he had to offer them.
While Jerry was someone who kept a small circle of friends and an even smaller number of public places he would frequent, when he did go, he was inevitably the life of the party and everyone who met him liked him instantly. If you got him to a wedding, by the end of the night he was singing with the band. His laugh was infectious. He smiled with his whole face.
Just before turning 65 and retiring, he became disabled, and rarely left his home. Yet he was content. Truly content. He did not complain, and in fact said for the first time in his life he no longer had to worry about making it to work with his “bad legs” and keeping the bills paid…a testament to the hard work and hard times his generation of Johnstowners called reality.
One thing he said has left such an unforgettable perspective. Several years ago he said, “he didn’t know how to be old”. He went on to say; “he had no examples…no men in his family, not his father, grandfather, uncles, and even brother had lived to his age”. He added in his mind he is “the same as he always was” but his body wouldn’t cooperate.
Jerry only wanted to be home. He kept many physical issues quiet, and always said he was fine. Even in the hospital when the nurses would encourage him to take medication, as there was no doubt he had to be in pain, he would say he was ok. We could get him to chuckle by telling him how handsome he was. We told him when they asked us who was your Dad we would say “the good looking one”. The little smile that brought is the face we choose to remember him. When we asked him if he was saying his prayers he would say yes. Once while we were praying together, we asked which prayer was his favorite so we could say it. While the answer given was not as expected, it was one that was wonderful…he simply said…”the family.” When you asked what he needed, wanted, or was thinking about, he would always…every single time… just say, “going home…oh well, not today…maybe tomorrow.”
You are home Dad.
Family will receive friends Friday January 21st from 4-7 p.m. at Hindman Funeral Homes & Crematory, Inc., 146 Chandler Ave., where a service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. Military honors and burial to follow at Grandview Cemetery. Arrangements in care of Hindman Funeral Homes & Crematory, Inc., “Exclusive Provider of Veterans and Family Memorial Care.” Condolences may be made at HindmanFuneralHomes.com