Our hearts are broken with the passing of our beautiful son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend. Gabriel Sikes Babbel, 17, died on May 6th, 2019. He was born on July 21st, 2001 and from the moment he entered our lives at 3 days old he has been a spark of joy that filled a void in our family. Gabriel arrived after two brothers, Arin and Jonah, and a sister, Zoe, that died shortly after she was born. After Gabriel came into our lives, he became a big brother to Seth. He was born in Sedalia, Missouri the home of Scott Joplin and ragtime music. We think that some of that musical influence was infused into his soul. From a young age he just had ‘rhythm’ and perfect pitch. At about 4 or 5 years of age he dominated the microphone when we played Guitar Hero and we think he sang Crazy Train better than Ozzy Osbourne. We encouraged piano lessons but quickly found that he learned to master music a different way. Music came into his ear and he understood it, he could immediately play it on the piano after just listening to it and eventually began writing music of his own. While we knew he wouldn’t be the next Scott Joplin we didn’t expect him to go by Yung O1 and enter the rap genre. It did take a while but we now have several rap songs on our playlists.
Gabriel’s adoption itself was quite an adventure; we began the journey while living in Nebraska and found out he would become part of our family during our move to Caldwell, Idaho. Shortly after arriving we were off to Missouri to meet him. He was such a beautiful baby. Leslie always thought he had the most beautiful brown skin and loved to caress his naked little chubby bottom. At 6 months of age we traveled back to Missouri to finalize the adoption. An ice storm prevented our plane from landing in Kansas City, we rerouted to Omaha and rented a car and drove through the night; neither blizzard nor ice could stop us from making the adoption hearing in the morning. With one hour of sleep we made it to the courthouse and Gabriel officially joined our family. The judge was surprised that we had made our court date and determined that it made us fit parents. This would be a theme through his life that his parents would summon whatever powers necessary to fight for Gabriel. He was sealed to our family. In the temple, the sealer officiating made our family eternal and told us clearly that Heavenly Father saw Gabriel as a member of our family, eternally.
Seth and Gabriel are only 8 months apart in age and were a lot like twins. Gabe was an amazing big brother to Seth and would translate to us what Seth was trying to say when they were toddlers. Seth would want something and Leslie or David would turn to Gabe and ask him what Seth said and Gabe always knew, “He wants a drink of water, mom.” They truly were best friends and were pretty much inseparable. One or the other would cry if they weren’t together. They talked each other into causing trouble too- Including drawing with markers all over our new couches. In Sunday school at church Gabe talked Seth into putting little pieces of paper up far into his nose. When they were a little older they made up “naked dodgeball” where they could score bonus points for hitting the “no-no zone”. They quickly realized it wasn’t a good idea and ran off to their bedrooms to put on underwear. It was a little less painful.
Family has always been important to Gabriel. He loved all of his Grandparents dearly and loved to visit and spend time with them. One summer he and Seth helped to paint Grandpa Babbel’s Business building - he says he still gets comments on the great painting job, and questions if they were available for other jobs. A few months ago Gabriel and his friend Dacota spent the weekend at Grandpa and Grandma’s helping to sand all of the steps on a new spiral staircase.
He loved to go on bike rides and walks with Grandpa Sikes but he didn’t really like it when Papa tried to teach him cribbage. Papa likes to eat weird food like peanut butter jelly sandwiches with turkey and mayo on the same sandwich. Gabriel laughed and laughed and retold that story often. Grandma Sikes gave him a fire starter for a gift and once while she was watching him he set something on fire in the yard, then came in to tell her what he had done.
He enjoyed being together with his brothers, spending hours on video games, pranks and rough housing. He loved all of his cousins and especially spending time with the Ivins Family.
He loved to travel and loved the ocean. His favorite trips were with his family to Mexico and to Hawaii. The first morning in Hawaii he and his brothers were in the ocean at 7:30 and were snorkeling with fish. He stayed in the water for hours. Everyday he ate shave ice for lunch.
In Mexico he loved swimming in the ocean and body surfing. One day on the beach he found a coconut in its husk. He was determined to open it and used a rock to tear away the husk and then crack it open to drink the milk. He also loved jumping into the freshwater Cenotes. He looked for the highest point to jump in and with some encouragement would add a couple of flips too. He loved the food and could always put away the most street tacos or elote or hielo.
Whether it was hiking up Walter’s Wiggles to Angels Landing or down the Bright Angel trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon he loved the outdoors. There have been several great adventures in the Boulder, Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains. Last year on a last minute family hike we attempted a hike to Castle Peak. We had a late start and attempted to take an ill-advised “short-cut” from David. We found ourselves on a high ridge and fortunately for us Gabriel scrambled down ahead, found a campsite, set up the tent, had dinner ready to cook, came back to get another backpack and guided us in through the dark with his voice and a light from his phone.
Gabriel was very athletic and picked up sports quickly, especially swimming and gymnastics. He was full of energy as a little boy and we couldn’t keep him off of the furniture. If we weren’t watching him for a second he would be doing something dangerous and this continued throughout his life from shredding his snowboard off of a tree stump or jumping off the house onto the trampoline. Gymnastics ultimately was his love. He spent a year at a gym in Ontario, Oregon. We figured out there weren’t many boys gymnastics programs around so we switched to a gym that had a stronger boys program. He then spent several more years at Meridian Gymnastics and then Danik Gymnastics in Meridian. We have pictures of Seth attempting the splits barely getting anywhere with his stiff legs and then Gabe in full splits. He was accomplished in all events including floor exercise, parallel bars, vault, pommel horse and High Bar. He spent many hours in the gym and was very dedicated. Leslie loved to have him share his talents with others which Gabe would most of the time oblige. Gym was a big part of of Gabe’s life, getting out of school early to make practice, eating in the car, coming home late, traveling far across the country to go to meets. His hands were so rough with callouses but he loved it and thrived.
Gabriel went to school at Thomas Jefferson Charter School starting in Kindergarten until 5th grade. At TJCS there is only one class per grade so the kids got to spend a lot of time together.
Seth and Gabe made lifelong friends and had amazing teachers that our family still loves dearly today. One day, when they were in the 2nd grade, Seth walked dejectedly into the house after getting off the bus after school. Leslie asked, “How was your day?” Seth said, “It was the worst day ever, we had to dance with girls!”. A few minutes later Gabriel bounded into the house with a huge grin. Leslie asked, “How was your day?, Gabriel replied, “It was the best day ever, we got to dance with girls!”. After TJCS, Gabe went to Vallivue Middle School where he participated in Cross Country, the Avid program and Choir. His favorite teacher was Mrs. Hubler. She cared a lot for Gabe and even went to a gymnastics meet to watch him compete. Gabe then went to Vallivue High School until spring of 2018 then started at Kimber Academy. His wonderful teacher, Tami Blaezard, would bribe him with Pirates Booty. Gabriel would do anything for Pirates Booty. Gabe still was in the choir and was a cheerleader and went to seminary at VHS.
Gabriel was able to help with the amazing transformation of downtown Caldwell. His Eagle Scout Project included landscaping a new musical art park. With the help of Kelli Jenkins, the city of Caldwell, Troop 520, Caldwell 10th ward and family and friends. Gabe’s name will remain inscribed on a plaque that we can enjoy with every visit downtown. It really was an amazing project and Gabe was so proud of how it looked. He loved scouts and the many adventures of camping, hiking and the great outdoors. He was the one who always started the campfires with flint and steel. One time Gabriel cut his foot on a piece of glass on a beach. Neal Webster cleaned his wound with a toothbrush and hand sanitizer. The scouts found old cans and made traps for crawdads. Gabriel helped the new scouts carry on with the Wolfem tradition, eating a pie like dessert cooked over the fire in one bite. There are tons of Scout stories and memories.
One of Gabe’s favorite things to do was to buy and sell Supreme, a ridiculously priced clothing brand based out of New York. His Dad would loan him money and they both would attempt to buy the best items when they went up for sale on Thursday mornings at 9am. Last Christmas David was somehow able to buy a box logo of a Supreme sweatshirt that is now worth hundreds of dollars. This was pure joy to Gabriel and he dreamed of owning his own brand someday. He loved to go to thrift stores and Ross and TJ Max looking for the ‘Good Stuff’. He had a knack for design and style.
Gabriel was a hard worker and enjoyed helping with the city of Caldwell’s Recreation Gymnastic
Program. He loved helping the kids and sometimes could be bribed into showing off his tricks. He loved animals and would always watch our neighbors animals for them while they were gone. The neighbors knew they could count on him. Gabriel could always handle big Duke their dog. He started working hard for a landscaping company for our good friends. He served at the hospital welcoming people and helping them with directions. He did lab runs, delivered flowers and cupcakes to new moms. He also volunteered for a short time at the YMCA belaying people for hours on the rock wall. Gabriel enjoyed serving others.
Gabriel had a tender heart. Once when Leslie was crying at home, the boys all scattered to their bedrooms not knowing what to do but Gabriel quietly approached with outstretched arms for a hug and to tell her it was going to be ok. He had tender feelings for animals including pet hermit crabs and cockroaches. One night Gabe was so incredibly sad and would not, could not, stop sobbing. For hours he cried, inconsolable. David and Leslie were inspired to reach out to a friend to get him a kitten delivered to our home that night at midnight. That did the trick, Gabe latched onto that kitten and the sobbing finally stopped. He was always very sweet and compassionate with the elderly. He had a great time visiting his great grandmother Maxine. He loved his great grandma so much even when he got too old he would still sit on her lap, very still and just be with her, this made her smile. In the nursing home he played Bingo with her. He could keep the whole table of Maxine’s friends entertained and smiling. He felt things more intensely. And this was such a blessing to all of those who were able to experience his happy infectious smile, his ability to make us laugh with his remarkably witty insights and his willingness to give and share with others. Unfortunately, this ability to feel emotions so intensely made it very difficult for him in his last few years battling depression. We cannot imagine what he felt and how much he struggled and why he ultimately took his own life. We mourn his loss but rejoice in the faith that his spirit is made whole, and has been healed by the sacrifice of his Savior, Jesus Christ. In the words of M. Russell Ballard, “I am grateful for the great plan of salvation our Father in Heaven has provided for us. It is a plan of great fairness and a plan of great love.”
We love the memories of Gabriel. These are just a few of many. We know that each of you have other memories of Gabriel and have hope that you will remember those amazing stories that remind you that he truly was a spark of joy, and the void from his loss will remain filled with those happy memories for the rest of our lives.
Memorial services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 13th at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Kimball Ave in Caldwell under the direction of Dakan Funeral Chapel, Caldwell. The family will receive friends at 9:30 a.m. one hour prior to the services in the Relief Society Room.