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January 16, 2019

Gary L. Gabelhouse, 67, of Lincoln, died January 16, 2019, in Missoula, Mont. Gary lived the kind of life that authors write about, people with an adventurous spirit only dream about and that so very few people have the courage, strength, energy, and commitment to pursue. He fought his way out of the roughest situations, climbed the highest, most dangerous peaks, faced his own death, explored the world, and pursued experience after experience that literally defined the word adventure. And this was in his spare time.

Best of all, Gary was a life force. If you were ever fortunate to have him as your friend, you knew that you could never have a fiercer defender, a more loyal advocate, and a more engaging champion.

In addition to a life full of adventures, Gary had several amazing careers. In 1974 he started, ran, and built Nebraska Outdoor Encounter (NOE) in conjunction with Nebraska Game and Parks. Under his leadership NOE became the third largest outdoor education program in the world. And he did this in Nebraska, of all places. NOE had such an important impact on the lives of countless students.

He became an executive at the Gallup organization where he conceptualized, sold, and executed some of the most innovative, groundbreaking consumer research studies of the time period. With his clients, Gary envisioned things that hadn't been done before and changed the game. And he did it over and over again.

Next, he acquired his own company; Fairfield Research. This gave him the opportunity to have his own canvas, on which he could paint his own vision. After a time of testing the market and defining his vision, Fairfield became a high-end, boutique market research company that literally helped to change the landscape in industries like advertising, media, publishing, gaming, and in at least one major instance, financial management.

Along the journey, Gary got involved with the martial arts. This became another outlet for his passion and energy. As always, he achieved at the highest levels. For Gary, this was not only a physical undertaking, but also a spiritual one. Although he distinguished himself in several of the arts, he received the elite distinction of sixth degree black belt in daitoryu aikijujtsu, a particularly elegant and defensive martial art. He trained, sparred, and taught in dojos around the world. As the martial arts began to define him, he began to redefine the martial arts for other people. This became one more avenue for him to build friendships and impact the lives of the people he cared about.

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While building Fairfield Research he began to more actively pursue another one of his passions, writing. Of course, just writing a great American novel wasn't his style. He wrote ten of them, along with hundreds of articles and newsletters. In so many ways, Gary revealed so much about himself within his novels. Through his books you can learn much about growing up in the old neighborhood, his adventures, the cultures and places he explored, and the values that made him who he was.

Gary believed in magic. And he knew the best places to learn about it often involved the ancient cultures in which he sometimes immersed himself. He understood that these were places where people could seek out and explore the supernatural without interference from the skepticism and distractions of complex, modern societies. His newsletter “Curious Things” will be missed by many. It not only appealed to serious martial artists, but also spiritually curious people of all varieties.

About seven years ago Gary rediscovered an old friend and he and Janice Whitmore fell deeply in love. At that time in his life it was a blessing way beyond his wildest imagination. This old warhorse started writing love songs and poetry, and most surprisingly learned to be at total peace and contentment with another person. From those of us who loved Gary, thank you, Jan!

However, his single most important commitment in life was his family. Many of the most cherished moments and days from his entire life occurred at the family cabin on Stalker Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, always surrounded by the extended Gablehouse family, and usually a few close friends. Gary was married to Cindy for 30 years and they remained friends until the end. This marriage produced, among other great things, the light of his life and his grounding foundation, his daughter Malindi (named after the town in Kenya where they later spent time together). He made it his priority to nurture her love of adventure and the outdoors, her integrity, work ethic, responsibility, and most definitely her need to have some fun. Malindi was the pride of his life.

Gary was a graduate of Lincoln High School and the University of Nebraska. He received his graduate degree from the University of Minnesota, Mankato. He enjoyed painting and pottery and was a collector of art. He was a staunch supporter of the arts and contributed to many local art projects and other non-profit organizations in Lincoln. Gary was a proud member of The Explorers Club.

He was preceded in death by his loving parents, Donald Sr. and Arlene Gabelhouse. He is survived by his daughter, Malindi; brother and sister-in-law, Donald Jr. and Diane Gabelhouse; nephew and niece, Zachary and Sarah; life partner, Janice Whitmore; and Bill Erickson and a multitude of friends all over the world.

There will be a celebration of life from 12 to 4 pm on Sunday, March 3, at Lincoln Fire Fighter's Reception Hall, 241 Victory Lane, Lincoln, NE 68528. The magic of Africa best captured Gary's spirit. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Nebraska for Elephants. (nebraskaforelephants.com)

To plant a tree in memory of Gary Gabelhouse as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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