Orono advocate Gabriel Jabbour was honored Aug. 30 when Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed that day as Gabriel Jabbour Day in Minnesota.
Jabbour received this honor for his years of support to local veterans, lake conservation and the surrounding community. He was honored at the monthly meeting of MN Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund in Chaska. He received his proclamation from Retired Major General Larry Shellito, who currently serves as the commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans 4 Veterans is an organization charged by state statute to oversee and grant funds received from the sale of the Big Island Veterans Camp on Lake Minnetonka in Orono.
The organization supplies grants to organizations that empower veterans to integrate themselves successfully into civilian life. Veterans 4 Veterans has granted more than $1.7 million in grants over 11 years. For more information, visit mnv4v.org.
Since 2006, Jabbour has spearheaded an effort to take veterans groups on excursions to Big Island. The relationship between Minnesota’s veterans and Big Island dates back more than 90 years when the island was home to the veterans camp.
The camp closed in 2003 and proceeds from the 2006 sale to the City of Orono are used to fund veterans programs in Minnesota. Jabbour was instrumental in creating a condition of the sale that ensured veterans would have access to the island in perpetuity.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor,” said Dean Ascheman, Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans board chair. “Anytime something is needed to keep this tradition alive, Gabe steps up and makes sure this program continues.”
Jabbour said that continuing to serve local veterans is his main objective.
“I have been honored by many people including Governors Dayton and Pawlenty,” Jabbour said. “While the honor is great I always think about what more I can do to enhance life for these soldiers who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”
One such veteran, Bill Cochrane of Eden Prairie, a Vietnam vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said that Jabbour’s commitment to veterans is unmatched.
“I have been on every veteran’s excursion to Big Island and I can tell you they do make a difference,” said Cochrane. “Gabe’s level of philanthropy has no equal. He truly cares for us.”
Having a day named in his honor isn’t stopping Jabbour from planning another cruise to the island
“I hope this never stops,” Jabbour said. “There have been challenges along the way, but we have always made sure that our friends, these veterans, can always visit a place that means so much to them.”
Jabbour served on the Orono City Council from 1990-1996 before being elected as mayor in 1997.
He also has served on the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Lake Minnetonka Conservation District and the Department of Natural Recourses Aquatic Invasive Species Board. He’s the owner of a number of local marinas, including MarineMax in Excelsior and the Tonka Bay Marina in Tonka Bay.