PLEASANTON -- Michael Gable's death happened unexpectedly last year, leaving his young Pleasanton family without a husband and father and devastating his parents and sister.
A singer for the band Segue and a former Saint Mary's College soccer player who worked for an online advertising company, Gable died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle, at age 38.
Just two weeks after he died, his tiny daughter Grace exhibited complications from dilated cardiomyopathy, a related disorder that caused her to spend the month spanning her first birthday in the hospital.
"It was just like getting struck by lightning twice and not knowing where to turn," said Michelle Gable, Michael's wife of eight years.
Now, Gable's family and friends are hoping to make others aware of the genetic heart condition -- which affects an estimated 600,000 people in the United States, according to the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association -- through the Gable Heart Beats Foundation.
The foundation, which family friend Amy Mayo started in the spring, released a benefit album entitled "One Race Human: A Tribute to Michael Gable" and an educational video to honor the anniversary of his death in September.
"Michael Gable would have wanted to share his story to help families around the world avoid this type of tragedy," Mayo said.
Album proceeds will support the organization and other groups, including: the Fourty-Four for Life Foundation--— which honors Hank Gathers, a Loyola Marymount basketball player who collapsed on the court and died from the condition -- the Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation, the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association and the Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation.
The inspiration for the album came from Gable himself, Mayo said.
He used to frequently wear a T-shirt with the slogan "One Race Human." His mother Beverly had purchased the shirt, which embodied the advice she gave to him when he was teased or asked "What are you?" over his bi-racial heritage while growing up in a small Washington town.
"I would say 'Tell them you're human,'" Beverly Gable said.
Described by Michelle Gable as a friendly, outgoing person whose family was his number one priority, her husband joined Segue in 1996 as a singer. The band has played in numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, including the Concord Pavilion.
Gable and guitarist Stefan Mayo wrote many of the group's songs together, with lyrics often reflecting Gable's stand on the need for equality.
"It was definitely a team effort," Stefan Mayo said. "We always used to rely on each other."
Segue will perform music from the album at a charity event in Gable's honor, to be held at St. Mary's College, that will feature a dinner, auction and appearance by Hank Gathers' brother Derek on Nov. 27.
Meanwhile, the video -- viewable at www.seguesounds.com, where the album can also be purchased -- highlights the prevalence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and the importance of cardiac testing.
The condition can be asymptomatic and sometimes only becomes known after sudden cardiac death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For now, the nearly two-year-old Grace is improving, albeit with five medications she must take twice-daily, and she is able to lead a fairly normal life alongside 4-year-old brother Matteo.
While nothing can bring him back, Michael Gable's family is comforted by the fact his name will live on through the foundation and that other families may not have to suffer.
"Michael was a great guy," Beverly Gable said. "You don't want him to be forgotten. He was loved by everybody and if I could trade places with him, I would."