It was 9:30 a.m. Monday when David Vogel went home for his lunch break. He had an early start that day in Gilroy’s Operations Department, and fiancée Juanita Diaz made him toast and cheese.
That weekend, they had repainted their 10-year-old daughter’s room together. The paint was still drying.
“He was picking some lemons in the backyard for his friend, Tom,” Diaz said.
An hour and a half later, while doing a routine inspection for the city, the 40-year-old Gilroy native was hit by a car and lost his life.
Vogel’s passing has devastated the many people who knew him. They say he was an avid outdoorsman who went out of his way to make others laugh. He was a devoted friend and a father, inseparable from his daughter, Samantha.
“He loved her so much; she was everything to him,” said Diaz.
Born and raised in Gilroy, Vogel began his job as a city maintenance worker in 1997. A natural jokester, he got along well with everyone, his coworkers said.
“He fit in instantly,” said Avey Gonzalez, who works in the department. “Every time I thought of David, it put a smile on my face."
Over the next 14 years, employees at the city’s maintenance department said they became very familiar with “Vogelistics,” the roundabout solutions that Vogel would find for problems, and his endless supply of one-liners.
“He thought outside the box, through the box and around the box,” said Todd Barreras, operations services supervisor.
One coworker, Jeff Castro, modeled with his hands an elaborate five-part system that Vogel once suggested as a fix during his time in the water division.
“He had so many ways to fix the same thing,” Castro said.
Now, while most street work is put on hold and people grieve, Vogel’s possessions are exactly where he left them, including his Jeep, still in the parking lot.
“His lunch pail is still in the fridge,” said John Greer, who began working for the city shortly before David.
“We don’t want to move it, because that’s David,” Barreras said.
It’s not the first time that tragedy has taken the life of a department employee. Sean Merriman, who was working for Caltrans at the time, died during a job in 2006. His mail slot, like David’s, is still labeled.
Vogel had mobilized his coworkers to participate in the annual golf tournament in Merriman’s honor on March 31. He spent countless time studying the game, Diaz said. He wanted to win.
“That was David’s goal—to bring the trophy to Gilroy where it belongs,” Barreras said.
Vogel’s passing on Monday marks the first time that an active city employee, including police and firefighters, has died in the line of duty, said Gilroy city spokesman Joe Kline.
At the city’s corporation yard, Vogel’s coworkers turned from somber to smiling as they recalled his humor and what Gonzalez called “an unorthodox, high-pitch cackle.”
Marshall Silva, who worked with David for 12 years, remembered riding next to him when he got the news that Diaz was pregnant. He never expected to hear Vogel say, five years later, that he was excited to go to Disneyland.
“David was the kind of guy you’d never see going to Disneyland,” Silva said, “but he had a blast.”
Silva's own daughter went along on the Disneyland trip, and both she and Samantha felt safest when David joined them on the rides, Silva said.
At home, David was known for the robust fires he had in his fireplace during the winter. He lived next to the house he grew up in, and he spent many of his evenings with his parents.
“We’d always have dinner together,” said his father, Albert Vogel.
When asked what clothes come to mind when thinking of David, his mother, Rosemarie Vogel, smiled.
“Shorts and a sweatshirt,” she said.
Both his family and coworkers agree that David spent much of his time with friends, seemingly drawn to people who needed help.
“People were important to David,” Diaz said. “He was a wonderful listener, and he always gave the best advice.”
“I’m very fortunate to have him be a part of my life," said his coworker, Greer. "I’ll take a lot of his characteristics and make them a part of myself.”
Flags flew at half-mast throughout the day on Tuesday as the city mourned his death.
“Gilroy is not the small town that it used to be, but it’s hard to find someone that didn’t know David or his parents,” said Kline.
Part of a stream of people who have visited the two adjacent homes in the past days, Penny Lemburger said her son grew up with David.
“I remember him playing Little League,” she said.
“We’re like family here,” Greer said. “David was like a brother.”
The memorial service for David Vogel will be this Saturday at the South Valley Community Church, 8095 Kelton Dr., in Gilroy. Viewing will begin at 9 a.m., and the service will begin at 10 a.m.