Gabriel Vollmer – Madison, Wisconsin
While has been published a while ago, it’s sort of turned into an annual ritual for me to search for this very piece and have a moment to my own. However, this time around, I wanted to look at it from a different perspective, with stories as quoted by a few members from his second family.
This is the edited version.
Jan 16th, 2007: 24-yr-old Gabriel (Gabe) and his mother Mrs. Vollmer, make a trip down south from Madison, Wisconsin to the Mexican embassy in Chicago. Little did they know, what was to come. Tragic incident. Lives of two blessed individuals lost. January 16th, 2007.
Few days later, I find myself at a funeral that I couldn’t get a grasp of. It took some time, time to recollect and time to settle in. I had never attended a funeral of a person who was close. Perhaps, that very funeral gave me the strength and prepared me to deal with the news of my own mother’s death, exactly a year later.
One might read this and rightfully question its relevance to what we at Futeek write about. That was the day we lost a fellow footballer as well.
I played with Gabe and his elder brother Steve throughout my collegiate career in the US. A striker of brilliant instinct, and a general with magnificent vision, standing at an average 6’3, Gabriel Vollmer was the name that was feared in the conference.
Although most of his playing time was marred by injuries, when he did land those giant feet of his on the pitch, he dazzled his opponents and us with absolute pieces of brilliance.
He was no pushover either. I was honored to witness his might during one of the games.
He basically picked up a member of the opposition on his forearm and slammed him. Obviously for a reason. The opposition targeted Gabe to be brought down; all the while he had the ball on his foot. Somewhat like a lumberjack, who constantly chops away at a strong tree from different angles in order to bring it down. Gabe was that Hardwood tree. And the opposition: the lumberjack’s.
Watching him do that, induced a sense of can-do attitude driving me to do something similar all though am not 6’3. It did make the game, let’s say a little more playable, after.
That was him on the pitch.
How about off the pitch though? He wasn’t to be messed around with, but the soft giant had a unique level of benevolence that attracted people to him. I specifically remember the time when I needed a ride to Milwaukee for a personal matter at around three in the morning. After failed efforts, in terms of convincing people I thought who were close to me, I ended up at Gabe’s doorstep. And as he always did, decided to drive me down without any hesitations nor questioning me why? His only request was if “I could hook him up with a cheeseburger from McDonalds”.
That was the Gabe we miss today.
We will always remember you brother, not based in the circumstances you were taken away from us but for all the times that you made us smile.
Below is a few collection from members of the team:
Cheto Rangel: “My favorite moment was a Vollmer moment. Since me and him were inseparable, we would always say we were family. And in terms of soccer, since it was a small school, the families would always show up to support the team. The short picnics after each game – cannot explain them. Since my parents lived in Mexico, I had no one there. And to make me feel like family, the Vollem’ers went beyond the norms – Gabe and his family told me that I will never be alone, as long as they are around. That changed my entire Lakeland experience, because I always felt like I had someone to go to. That was the Vollmer way. They always made everyone feel included.”
Ryan Holl: “I remember walking to the coin toss with him one game. Normally Gabe was a jolly goofball with a heart of gold. The look in his eyes this walk was something different. He was ready for the game. I asked him hey Gabe, you doing ok bro? Something on your mind? He said, yeah man, we are going to kick the shit out of these guys today. I let him do all the talking before the flip and played my ass off that game.”
Tim Romanello: “Gabe and I were always pretty quiet around each other, but on one specific road trip, we sat across from each other just the two of us separated from the team just discussing the game we had just played. While discussing and talking he managed to eat his meal and my meal without really even noticing. When finished, he looked up, smiled and said, “Bro…you would have like that. It was real good.”
Adam Sherwood: “He was always one to get u in a good mood and always remember to have fun playing a game we all love!”
Charlie Van Ginkle: “He was always into giant headphones before they were even popular.”
Carmelo Teran Gonzalez: “I remember the first day I visited Lakeland. At one poingt Gabriel came joined Chedito to show me around campus. I could see right away he was very excited to have a Spaniard coming to join the team. He couldn’t stop joking around with Chedito, he was such a happy kid!
Then, the first day of soccer practice when I saw him coming to the pitch goofing around I thought to myself “uff, this guy gonna suck big time” … Then, during the first small game with the ball, we got to be in the same team and WOW : ) I enjoyed sooo much throwing him one two´s … He really understood the game. He was an amazing soccer player. Maybe the best player I played with in USA.
And of course, out of the soccer field he was way too cool, funny and friendly to everyone. He taught me a couple things about the “dark” English language and some good ones about the ladies … (this had to be censored…sorry)
Gabe and his family taught me too many things which I will never forget. Miss them all! Miss U all! Couldn’t have asked for a greater place to be away from home.”
Coach Marc Colwell: “I always remember him smiling and in a good mood. And what a great teammate, friend, and talented player. I remember playing euchre with him, Steve, Big Steve, and Martha at the Vollmer house several times when out recruiting in that area. What a tremendous person and family. I miss him!”
We, the soccer family and as part of a small group of international students part of the squad, will also remember you Mrs. Vollmer for everything you had done for us. From every time you fed us post games to all the school holidays you took us in like a mother would. Words cannot be used to describe the emotions.
Our prayers are always with you my brother (Steve) and my dearest sister (Heidi).
And as for you Gabe, we will meet again inshallah.