written by Stacey P Horcher
There are over 21,000 caring, wonderful, talented, intelligent, amazing, people in JHJ, from every facet of the jewelry industry. I am hoping that some of us will help make a difference for one member who has already sacrificed so much for all of us.
Gabe Fernandez grew up in New York and in the jewelry business. His dad, who had a small shop in the diamond district, made molds for the waxes carved by jewelers. Gabe made deliveries for his dad, he was the runner, and he learned the business from the jewelers with whom his dad worked.
Gabe went to school at New York Institute of Technology, where he learned Graphic Design, Art History, and CAD as part of the 3D modeling curriculum. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep up with the expenses. He went to work doing video encoding for the news departmrnt of Bloomberg computers, leaving in 2003 because he felt called to join the Marines.
As a Marine, Gabe served in Japan, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. It was the best of times for him. He loved his marine brothers, his country. While he was still in the service, he married Christina, and adopted her 4 year-old son Jose. Together, they had a daughter in 2011. Gabe continued to serve in the Marines until he became disabled during a tour of duty in 2015, but he was determined to work and earn a living.
Gabe returned to jewelry. He taught himself RHINO, so that he could start making and printing CAD files. He hoped to be able to work from home in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina. With the assistance of some jeweler friends and YouTube videos, he soaked up everything he could get his hands on to learn the best ways to do things, and best practices for the industry.
Gabe has very high standards himself, and strives to do beautiful work for the jewelers who rely on him. Things started to improve for him in 2017. Gabe began to get active on Facebook, where he learned there were other jewelers in groups such as Jewelers Helping Jewelers, from whom he could learn. He joined many, but found the best help, advice and sense of community in JHJ.
Gabe was just starting to gain a foothold in the business in 2018 when Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, and demolished his house, his CAD computer, and so much of what he had worked so hard for. He was devastated. It was about that time that I first learned about him, someone I know on JHJ, Michael MJ, posted about him, saying that he lost his computer in the hurricane, and asking if anyone in JHJ had an extra computer to spare that he could use to get back up and running again.
I had just gotten my new laptop, and my old one had been sent to the shop, repaired, and emptied of my data so that I could sell it. When I saw that post, I decided that it was much more important to help a disabled veteran get back on his feet, so I offered it to him as a gift. That almost worked, except my computer was a MacBook and he needed a PC for Rhino. So I offered the MacBook on JHJ for sale in an improvised “ auction”, and gave Gabe the proceeds, with which he bought another computer. He was delighted to be able to just get back to work, and I felt blessed to be able to help him.
Gabe’s whole family worked for the last 2 years, living in hotel rooms and donated mobile home while they took on the unimaginable challenge of cleanup and reconstructing the devastated house in which they hoped to once again live. They all pulled together, did much of the work themselves, and were finally able to move back into their own house.
I have never met Gabriel Fernandez or his family in person, but I feel that I owe him, and our military, a great debt for our freedom, which is why I’m writing this story about him today.
Gabe has dreamed of taking his jewelry work to the next level, and was planning to go to the GIA on the GI bill to learn bench jewelry skills, so he would be able to start doing jewelry work from home, setting up a bench, making his services available to the trade, and maybe doing a little design work too. He had the GIA documents all set, and was ready to go away this month, October 2020, when he was informed that because of COVID-19, his enrollment was pushed back, first to March 2021, then to October 2021.
Gabe was very disheartened, an extra year, and perhaps longer, is a very long time to wait. He decided to try for another school, the NASJ New Approach School for Jewelers, in Tennessee, which has a 12-week bench jewelers program starting in March of 2021. The tuition for that is $15,000. The VA will not pay the tuition because NASJ, like many good trade schools, will not yet be accredited
Gabe’s military disability pay will keep his family together in their home, but it isn’t enough to cover his tuition, room and board at the NASJ in Tennessee, which is why I’m writing this story. I want you all to know what I know about this sweet young man. He has a heart of gold, and he wants to work hard and make a good life for his family in spite of his disability. He has worked so hard to learn all he can on his own, from free sources all over the jewelry industry, but to get to the next level he needs our financial help.
NASJ is a very well-respected jewelers trade school, and Gabe believes that this 12 week course can help him achieve his dream of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
I hope that we as a community can make the difference for him. I hope that everyone who reads this will think about the sacrifices that are made by our military, and feel moved to make this Christmas really special for him.
Please help me help him. I’ve made a Go Fund Me page for his education fund, and I’m hoping I can get him some kind of scholarship help, but in the meantime, if you could help me make a Christmas miracle for a really good man, I would be SO grateful, and I know it make you feel really good too.
Who’s with me?