Cover photo for Gabriel Joseph Magtutu's Obituary
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1939 Gabriel 2020

Gabriel Joseph Magtutu

January 21, 1939 — January 20, 2020

Gabriel “Baby Boy” Joseph Magtutu, age 80 of Montrose, passed away on January 20, 2020 in the comfort of hospice care, surrounded by family and friends in his home in Montrose. Gabe was born January 21, 1939 in Washington D.C. to immigrant parents, Gervasio and Kyriakitcha Piosta Magtutu. The youngest of five children, his parents were undecided on a name, simply noting, “Baby Boy” on his birth certificate. It wasn’t until applying for his first passport in the summer of 2008 to visit a friend in New Zealand, that it became a battle to update official records to include his dedicated name, Gabriel Joseph Magtutu.

Gabe was born and raised in the south projects of Washington D.C. and was a member of the Washington Police Boys Club #5. He participated in boxing, tumbling, and football. He discovered the outdoors by attending, and then working at the Police Boys summer camp in Maryland. Camp was a dream come true for him, and strongly directed the rest of his life. He graduated from Bladensburg Senior High School in Maryland and completed a degree in recreation management from the University of Colorado Boulder. Gabe served in the Colorado National Guard in the early 1960’s. In 1967, he married the love of his life of 52 years, Cathy Menzies.

Like many of the great pioneers, Gabe always had an independent and fearless passion for adventure and the outdoors. Breaking tradition from a very strict Filipino immigrant culture, he left home at age 25, lured by the mountains and rivers of the open West. With his fierce work ethic, Gabe held numerous jobs starting at age 13. At 21, he secured a 19-1 record as a Maryland Golden Gloves boxer. He trained as a journeyman printer after high school, working for the Washington Post as a linotype operator, and then for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News after relocating to Colorado in 1964.

Gabe was part of the Vail National Ski Patrol, as well as a professional ski patrolman at Telluride and Powderhorn ski areas. In the summer he worked as a rafting and fly fishing guide. His drive to protect wilderness country carried him through his lifelong service of over 35 years as a professional guide on the Grand Canyon, Gunnison Gorge, Green, San Juan, Gates of Ladore, Westwater, and Yampa rivers. Gabe and Cathy worked at Telluride during its inaugural year – Cathy selling the first lift ticket in 1971 and Gabe patrolling the alluring snow-covered slopes.

In 1976 Gabe accepted a directorship at the Montrose Recreation District. He and Cosme Sisneros started the soccer program beginning with fifth and sixth graders. Today over 450 kids and adults enjoy the sport in Montrose annually.

In 1982, Gabe founded Double Haul Float Trips, one of the first commercial rafting companies through the Gunnison Gorge. He and Cathy worked diligently to offer high-end outdoor experiences to their clients. They directed their guests down a laborious trek to the river, and floated them through premier fishing waters. Gabe manually hauled heavy rafts and clunky gear into the Gorge using modified hunting game carts, but soon realized that hiring pack horses from the Franks Ranch was a better way to go. Barely seeing over the steering wheel, Cathy shuttled clients into the trailhead for their three-day trip, and then picked them up at the take out with chilled watermelon slices and cold soda.

Gabe was one of the founding members of the Gunnison Gorge Anglers Trout Unlimited chapter and served as its first president. Working with TU, the BLM, DOW, Bureau of Reclamation, Western Colorado Congress, and numerous other conservation groups, he helped establish regulations to protect and preserve the majestic Gunnison Gorge Wilderness. He even taught DOW officers to kayak so they could monitor the precious resource. His relentless efforts with these groups prevented extreme legislation which proposed damming the Gorge in the early 1980’s.

Gabe was one of the oldest patrolmen to serve at Telluride and continued his love of river and canyon preservation up until his recent bout with cancer. This past October, at age 80, he kayaked (and twice swam!) Lodore Canyon on the Green River. He remained a staunch environmental conservationist and advocate with active memberships in the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Colorado Canyons Association, Trout Unlimited, and many others. His passion for western waterways even manifested in local efforts as he and Cathy celebrated their last four Earth Days by cleaning trash out of the creek adjacent to their home.

Gabe will best be remembered for his spirit of living life to its fullest, for his legacy and passion for preservation of the rivers and canyons of the great West, for his quick-witted humor, and for his fiery, stubborn ways. But perhaps best of all, he will be remembered as the “Master of the River”. Gabe was preceded in death by his parents and all four of his siblings. He is survived by his wife Cathy, his children Craig (Jen) Magtutu of Denver and Ben (Shawna) Magtutu of Delta, his treasured and adored grandchildren, June, Otter, and Charlie Magtutu, and by his extended families the Menzies and Vickermans.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider a donation to the Colorado Canyons Association-543 Main St. #4 Grand Junction, CO 81501, GGA Trout Unlimited-P.O. Box 3114 Montrose CO 81402, or Hope West Hospice-725 S. 4th St. Montrose, CO 81401. True to Gabe’s wishes, a celebration of his return to his “river home” is being planned sometime during the boating season. His spirit will live on in the great canyons and waters of these wild rivers. And if you ever find yourself gazing among the towering walls of his canyon home, be alert for the calls, flight, and mischief of his spirit animal – the raven. Soar on Gabe!

Crippin Funeral Home and Crematory is assisting the family. 970-249-2121.


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