GRAND FORKS — This week's gem is a legend at a local high school and he's a hall of fame coach there too.

But that's not why the school called him out of retirement. Many will tell you he's a life saver.

For the past decade, Tom Gabrielsen, who everyone calls Gabe, has been the commons supervisor at the school.

But this is actually his second stint at the school. "We've had a couple of rumbles," Gabe said.

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He still remembers his reaction the day he was asked to come back to work after enjoying retirement for a decade.

"'You got to be kidding me,' " he said.

But they didn't have to twist the 81-year-old's arm too much. "Sitting around doing nothing or drinking coffee was kind of fun for a while, not everyday," Gabe said.

He missed the kids and they missed him.

"Some days, if you are feeling down and he says hi, it does change your day because he smiles at you and makes you feel important," said Red River High School senior Myra Henderson.

Gabe's first career at Red River started back in 1968 as a social studies teacher.

He quickly led the basketball team to a state title. But it wasn't his coaching on the basketball court or golf course that establish his legacy, it was Gabe's advice as a mentor that eventually led to him becoming a longtime guidance counselor at the school.

"I didn't realize I needed his help," said Red River High School graduate Jody Anderson.

It was during Anderson's junior year back in the early '90s when some of his friends went to Gabe concerned Anderson was distancing himself.

"I didn't even realize I was depressed and he turned me in the right direction," Anderson said. "He gave me the tools to identify it early so I could do something about it."

"He has that special gift of knowing how to reach kids," said Red River High School Principal Kris Arason.

Gabe estimates he has made contact with 25,000 students over the years, always trying to keep an important pulse on their lives.

"What kind of a situation have they come from, what was their morning like, who slapped them around, do they have money, are their parents getting along? There are so many issues that enter into their young lives. I think about that all the time," Gabe said.

"I'm beyond confident that he saved lots of lives," Anderson said. "One of the greatest risks with teenagers is suicide and I am confident he has gotten in the way of and prevented a lot of suicides over the years."

But now "Gabe's Army" from his 51 years at Red River is keeping a close eye on him. He was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.

"I'm so appreciative from all the kids over the years," Gabe said. "Send me warm fuzzies, verbal warm fuzzies, perhaps thanking me for what they perceive as being helpful. Yeah, it's a good feeling."

Gabe said it's probably some of the best medicine. Despite undergoing treatment he — for the most part — still maintains his 30-hour-a-week work schedule.

"I'm a marshmallow," Gabe said. "It really helps. I love the kids so much."

Gabe continues to offer his words of wisdom.

With his 82nd birthday coming up on Thanksgiving, Gabe said he has a lot to be thankful for, such as the students at Red River, who he plans on saying hi to for at least the near future.

"I think about it once in a while," he said. "It's a year-by-year deal."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover Gabe's medical expenses as he battles lymphoma.

The original goal was $7,000, but it has already reached nearly $22,000 as of Thursday night, Nov. 8.