Rodney Lyle Gabelein was born on July 14, 1969, to Duane and Christeta (Bechtol) Gabelein at Swedish Hospital in SeattleWashington. Five years later he was joined by a brother, CharlesDuane (Chucky). Later in life he was reunited with an older sister, Kim (Doug, niece Jillian) Younts. Rod passed away unexpectedly at his home in Freeland, WA on October 20, 2023,at the young age of 54, leaving behind his beloved wife Kiri (Jacobsen) and his 8 year old mini me son, Lincoln Jacob.
Rod lived on South Whidbey Island his entire life, proudly following multiple generations of family who originally moved to the area in the early 1900’s. Rod graduated from South Whidbey High School in 1988 excelling in football as the noseguard position, wearing #76, even making it to the state competition his sophomore year. Rod also did track and field,where he threw the shot put and discus.
After graduation Rod went to Arizona and received a degree in diesel mechanics
from Universal Technical Institute. Upon returning home in 1990, he purchased Gabelein Brother Septic Pumping; the business his family had owned since he was four. The lessons and skills he had learned while working beside his parents became invaluable throughout his career as he became known as a trusted, knowledgeable, successful septic tank professional. In 2005 Rod grew his business and bought a local portable toilet company followed by a second, located on Camano Island. He enjoyed his weekly Wednesday drive to Camano.
In 2010 Rod was introduced to his “lovely”, Kiri, while camping at the Keystone Ferry Terminal campgrounds. On August 24, 2013, they were married at the Freeland Hall and enjoyed ten years together. During this time, they built a new home, traveled to the “ProperT” in Plain, WA and trailer camped in Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, Fort Casey and traveled to Hawaii,Mexico, San Francisco, New Orleans, and wherever he needed to go to purchase another work truck. In 2013, Rod once again expanded his business – buying out three other Septic Pumping businesses. Gabelein Brothers Septic became four successful companies under his family name. He then became certified in pump inspections and repair.
One thing Rod prided himself on was he always knew what type of septic system and soil every house on Whidbey had. He was quite a presence in the community. Because of his family’s legacy in South Whidbey, his work that took him to so many people’s homes, and his generosity of spirit, some people might say that if you didn’t know Rod, then you weren’t a local.
Rod enjoyed spending time with his family, friends, and the people he worked with. You would often find him sitting on his porch, relaxing, and talking, waiting for his friends to visit. His door was always open. He had an incredible memory, was a character, and we all enjoyed his uniqueness and his capability to BS for hours. Rod was unapologetically himself and it was refreshing. He liked to watch “Roseanne” with Kiri and knew all the “Little house on the Prairie” episodes and cheered on WWEwrestling. He loved to go on drives around the Island, and he could operate heavy machinery like a pro.
Rod’s life became complete on October 22, 2015, when his son,Lincoln Jacob was born. During the past 8 years together, they were inseparable. Rod’s family genes were strong, and they were similar in many aspects. You would often see Lincoln riding around in the septic truck with his daddy and the two of them enjoying weekend breakfasts with grandpa before surveying upcoming job sites. Rod made a point to tell Lincoln every day how much he loved him; that he was his best friend; and how proud he was of him.
A great majority of Rods life was work. He worked very hard to provide for his family and took great pride in his accomplishments. Rod had a huge heart, was all bark and no bite, and would help anyone in need. Ultimately his huge heart is what took him prematurely from us. Rod is going to be greatly missed and it is difficult to comprehend the impact he has left behind.
A graveside memorial will take place at the family plot at Bayview cemetery on Saturday, November 4th at 1pm, with a potluck celebration of life to follow at the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club. In Lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Island County Fair Association; PO BOX 519 Langley WA 98260. Kiri and Lincoln are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and affection from the community that Rod held so dear.