A Central Florida family still reeling from a Thanksgiving tragedy is now asking for help and support from the community this holiday season.
Michelle Cortes described her brother, former Kissimmee resident John Gale, 41, as a kind, hard-working man who would do anything for his loved ones. A rare, admirable person that she still has trouble talking about in past tense a week after his death.
“There’s not many people in the world like him,” she said. “It’s hard not to like him.”
Gale was heading home in his company truck on Nov. 21, when he was involved in a bizarre crash along State Road 417 in Osceola County.
He was traveling back to his family of five daughters, ages 6 to 15, and his fiancé, Tonya.
Cortes says the shock of Gale’s death is hard to process.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Cortes, who said her older brother was like a father figure to her when they were growing up. “Nothing could have prepared me for it, nothing.”
For an unknown reason, Gale failed to slow down as he approached the rear end of a second box truck near the Interstate 4 exit ramp, where the accident occurred. He wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Cortes believes her brother may have had a heart attack prior to the crash and unbuckled his seatbelt to relieve pain or grab nearby medication. Gale had already suffered a heart attack this summer and told his sister he was worried about it happening again.
Gale was starting to make healthy changes, but still worked long hours and double shifts to support his large family and pay rent at their small 800 square-foot home in Haines City, Cortes said.
Gale’s death was soon followed by more bad news.
The custody of Gale’s two teenage daughters – ages 11 and 15 - has been thrown into question since Tonya and Gale weren’t legally married yet and the girls are from Gale’s previous marriage.
Meanwhile other issues, like paying December’s rent and dealing with a burst pipe in the home continue to plague Gale’s family.
Gale’s youngest daughters with Tonya – ages 6 and 8 – still don’t fully understand what’s going on.
“The youngest keeps asking when daddy is coming home from work,” Cortes said, fighting back tears. “The eight-year-old told me yesterday that all she wants for Christmas is for her dad to come home.”
Cortes knows they can’t give his daughters the thing they want most this holiday season, but she still wants the day to be as bright as possible. She wants them to be safe and have time to grieve without worrying about rent and home repairs.
That’s why Cortes has launched a GoFundMe page called, “In Loving Memory of John Gale” and is asking members of the community to keep Gale’s family in their thoughts this holiday season.
“I don’t know what their future will look like,” Cortes said about her nieces. “But I want to make sure this Christmas is special.”
His sister said it’s the least she can do for Gale, a man who lived selflessly and worked hard to take care of the ones he loved.
To help Gale’s family, visit www.gofundme.com/