Gabo is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 54 years, Correna (Moore) Schoonover; son Gil (LaVerne) Schoonover of Temecula, California; and daughters Vanessa (Scott) Hite of Port Republic, Maryland; Tanya (Roger) Wolfe of Green Bank; Cheri Burdette of Elkhurst; and Kelley (Marty) Gillenwater of Dunedin, Florida. He was Papaw to 10 grandchildren: Nikki (Jay McGhee) Morris, Eric (Chrissy) Morris, Dustin (Amy) Burdette, Matthew (Alysia) Burdette, Rachel (Michael) Ashworth, Maile Schoonover, Keanu Schoonover, Brianna Hite, Elizabeth Hite and Piper Gillenwater. He was also graced with six great-grandchildren: Blake Morris, Rustin Morris, Ever Burdette, Emma Burdette, Kamrin Floyd and Cori Floyd.
He’s also survived by his brother Orvil Schoonover of Merritt Island, Florida, and sister Carole Schoonover of Akron, Ohio. Additionally, he leaves behind several dear brothers-in-law and sisters-in law, dozens of cherished nieces and nephews, and hundreds of good friends of all ages.
He is preceded in death by his parents Henry and Orfa (Hart) Schoonover of Elkhurst/Clay; older brothers Henry “Kermit” Schoonover, who was killed in World War II, and Walter (Evalena) Schoonover of Clay; and sister Janice (Tom) Frey of Macedon, New York.
Gabo was born in 1931. That’s the same year the Elkhurst swinging bridge, which his dad helped build, was opened. He was given his nickname by an older brother who couldn’t pronounce Gilbert and the name stuck. Many long-time acquaintances never even knew Gabo’s real name – including the pastor who married him to Correna on Christmas Eve of 1965. As the preacher, who’d known Gabo for years, was administering the vows, he said “Do you … what is your real name anyway – George?” For the rest of their years together, when Correna would get aggravated at Gabo, he’d laugh and respond with “You’re not married to me anyway. You married George.”
Gabo’s early years were spent helping his dad and brothers on the family farm and getting into mischief with his friends and relatives. Upon graduation from Clay County High School in 1948, he went to work for a short time at the Valley Bell plant in Charleston before going on to serve in the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War as a mechanic and batsman (guiding planes in for landing). He would later help start the Clay chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
His career included time spent working for a shipping company on the Great Lakes, working at a couple of service stations in the town of Clay, serving as Clay County superintendent of roads for the West Virginia Division of Highways, as a coal miner and as an equipment operator at a coal processing plant. He may be best known, however, for the years he spent operating his own service station in Clay, where he gave many young people their first-ever jobs. During his retirement years, Gabo enjoyed spending time at Sizemores’ IGA in Clay, where he volunteered to help bag and carry out groceries and socialized with old and new friends alike. He never met a stranger.
Following several years with the now-closed Clay Church of the Nazarene, during which time he often drove a church van to pick up kids to bring them to and from Sunday school, Gabo attended the Lizemores Church of the Nazarene until his health declined. One year, Correna even talked him into playing one of the Three Wise Men in a Christmas play and singing “We Three Kings.”
In addition to being a huge football fan, he was an avid hunter and fisherman – often spending hours along the bank of the Elk River behind his home of the last 37 years. His grandchildren hunted and fished with their Papaw Gabo and grew up hearing tales of his exploits.
Services were held at Wilson-Smith Funeral Home in Clay on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Visitation was from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by the funeral and then interment at Clay Memorial Gardens. Friends and family were invited to a 3 p.m. dinner in Gabo’s honor at the Lizemores Church of the Nazarene.
Donations may be made in Gabo’s name to Hubbard Hospice House in Charleston (1001 Curtis Price Way).