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John Raymond Gabay III

It is with profound sadness that we announce that on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, John Raymond Gabay III, a beloved father, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend, passed away. He was 67.

Born to his father John and mother LaVerne and raised in Countryside, Illinois, John hitchhiked out to California in his early 20s and soon after found his home and calling in San Clemente. He ran the Beachcomber Motel, a one-of-a-kind historical seaside property, with his life-long friend and mother of his children, Karen, for 32 years before opening the Oceanfront Hacienda in 2013.

John put passion and creativity into every one of his countless projects. Whether it was creating the quirky charm of his gorgeous beachfront vacation rentals, dreaming up the character and serenity of his vacation home in Rosarito, Mexico, painting buildings with his painting business, or building the nearly three-story tall wooden candy canes and a fresh pine wreath with his sons that became holiday season staples in the Pier Bowl, he was inspired by the desire to make things beautiful.

It was deeply important to John to make sure everyone around him was taken care of and having a good time. For years he and Karen put on one of the best Fourth of July parties in town, opening their home to hundreds of family, friends, and locals. Every Christmas Eve when his children were young, John dressed up as Santa Claus and the adults in the room enjoyed “Santa’s” visit just as much as the kids did. He had a presence and an energy that were big, authentic, and totally unique and if he was around you knew it because chances are he was making you smile.

John found true joy in taking deep-sea fishing trips in Cabo San Lucas, watching sports (especially the Lakers), and attending concerts. He embraced adventure and tradition and for decades took his family on annual vacations to some of his favorite places: Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Big Bear, Mammoth, Chicago, and Mexico were graced by many years of the Gabay’s visits.

John is survived by his children, Shelly, John, Kevin, and Trever, and his sister Jannet and brother Michael. He will be remembered for his huge infectious smile, generosity, thoughtfulness, and warmth. As we look out at the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore and the vibrant colors of the sunset painting the sky, we will feel his spirit. He is forever in our hearts.

Please join us on Saturday, October 8th for an afternoon at the beach to celebrate John’s illustrious life. Come by anytime between 3pm and sunset; we’ll be just south of the San Clemente Pier and look forward to hearing your most cherished memories and stories about John. A private service for close family will be held at a later date.

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