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Publication Date: Friday, March 21, 2003

Honoring Danny Gabor Honoring Danny Gabor (March 21, 2003)

by Jeb Bing

D anny Gabor, Amador Valley High's one and only state champion in any sport, was only 27 when he died along with 229 others July 17, 1996, in the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 into the ocean off the coast of Long Island. Tomorrow, his record-setting track and field accomplishments will be commemorated at Amador's first Dan Gabor Memorial Invitational track meet, which will feature 20 of the top high school teams from Northern California. Organized by Amador's new track coach Chris Puppione, it's a long-overdue salute to one of the school's most colorful athletes, who many of us remember as a free-spirited Amador track star known more for his ragged running shorts, fast running speeds and Mohawk haircuts than for academic achievements. A number of his track records still stand at Amador, including his state championship in the 800-meter run in Sacramento just before he graduated in 1987. Then, continuing his running career for the Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas, he was a two time all-American while also making the Dean's list in his first year at the school as he pursued bachelor's and master's degrees in geology.

At tomorrow's Invitational, Dan's mother Ann Gabor, now 71, will present a 4-1/2 foot traveling trophy in her son's name to the winner of a special 800-meter race. She still has all of the trophies Dan won, proudly displayed along with photos in his bedroom at the family home on Loganberry Way that she and her husband Don bought new 37 years ago. Don Gabor, who was the physical education coach and teacher at Livermore High for 23 years, died of lymphoma in 1979 at age 52, leaving Ann with the responsibility of raising Dan and his older sister Cathy. A history major, Ann Gabor went back to school for a medical records certificate, taking a job at Washington Hospital in Fremont. She had just come home from work that afternoon on July 17 to hear Dan's message on the answering machine that he was about to board a flight to Paris, as planned. She still has the tape, the last words she heard from her son.

Dan Gabor was headed to Paris to meet his British girlfriend and Arkansas classmate Claire Phythian. She was en route to the Manchester airport for her own flight to Paris when she heard the news of the TWA crash. Here in Pleasanton, Ann Gabor had just returned home from dinner on Main Street with friends and was watching television reports about the crash, assuming from Dan's message that he had caught a much earlier flight. It turned out that Flight 800 had been delayed and Dan was on it, which she learned in a phone call from Cathy, who was in Chicago. Over the next few weeks, Ann Gabor and her family stayed in New York as salvation efforts proceeded and was soon joined by Claire Phythian and her mother who came in from England. When Dan's body was recovered (many were never found), the family buried him next to his father in Ann's home state of West Virginia. A month later, more than 500 filled the Amador Theater for a memorial service arranged by the mothers of Amador's Class of 1987. Another service followed two weeks later in Fayetteville, where the University of Arkansas track coach John McDonald also dedicated a plaque in memory of Daniel K. Gabor at the school's sports complex.

Ann Gabor has established a field-study scholarship in her son's name at the University of Arkansas and a Dan Gabor Track & Field monetary award that is given every year at Amador. Tomorrow's Invitational track meet and the traveling trophy will help perpetuate the enthusiasm and accomplishments of Pleasanton's great track star, Danny Gabor.

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