January 31, 1954 - January 11, 2021
The third in a thrilling Gabler trilogy, Hampton Clay Gabler III was born on January 31, 1954 in Northern Virginia at Fort Belvoir to Hampton Clay Gabler Jr. and Sara Gabler Bevlin. He was such a successful baby, three more sisters followed: Penny Byrd, Marianna Dudley, and Claudia Elke Clark.
Clay and Margaret Cooper Gabler celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on August 16th, 2020. They met 49 years prior at a Valentine’s party in February 1972. Both Clay and Margaret were terribly shy, but Clay stole Margaret's attention by shooting a rubber band at her from across the room. That rubber band yielded two sons, Kyle and Whitney, and one grandson (so far), Toby.
Clay is best known for being a terrible cook. He hated cilantro and avocados. He's also best known for analyzing automobile crash data to make transportation safer. In the 80's he brought home a VHS and showed his sons extreme slow-motion footage of crash test dummies in horrific high speed impact tests. Both his sons waited until they were almost 40 to get their first driver's licenses. They have always worn their seat belts.
Clay also designed nuclear reactors in the 80's, and built a whirling jet engine in the 90's. During this time, he brought home what could generously be described as "portable" monochrome 286 computers and taught his sons to program, with challenges like "Write a program that counts the number of unique words in Green Eggs and Ham!"
A teacher his whole life, Clay finally became an official college professor of engineering in the year 1998. His early students affectionately called him Dr. Doom.
Clay passed away on January 11, 2021 from a rare neurodegenerative condition called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Doctors know very little about the disease, but we assume his brain was just too busy doing too many neat things for too long. He maintained his sense of humor, warmth, and dad jokes to the very end.
We love you dad! We love you husband! We love you grandpa, brother, teacher, and Christmas tree lumberjack!
More on Clay and his work: Virginia Tech's memorial page
A memorial was held on June 11, 2021 in Virginia.
If you would like to send a message to Clay's family, you can write to
We've put together a photo book of Clay through the years which we're sending to close family members. A huge thanks to Clay's sisters, cousins, and friends who sent us many of these photos that we'd not seen before. The book is publicly available to all at the link above. The cost is only whatever it costs to print and ship - we're not making any big bucks on this book, sorry Dad!
Clay's favorite organizations, he donated to these every year: