Slain Giffords aide Zimmerman to be honored Tuesday in DC ceremony

2013-04-14T00:00:00Z 2014-07-30T17:28:19Z Slain Giffords aide Zimmerman to be honored Tuesday in DC ceremonyStephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Constituents called Gabriel Zimmerman for all kinds of reasons - veterans needed help getting medals, people were angry about health reform, ranchers were worried about the border.

Many of the senior citizens in Green Valley asked for the 6-foot, brown-haired, young congressional aide by name, especially the women. His colleagues teased him about that.

Even when Southern Arizona constituents were angry and venomous, his co-workers say Zimmerman, a social worker by training, was even-tempered.

His dad says he was like that since childhood. He virtually never lost his cool.

His work was behind-the-scenes, but Zimmerman will be at the forefront on Tuesday when he is honored in a ceremony in Washington D.C., with many of the nation's leaders in attendance.

The Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room will memorialize the 30-year-old aide to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Democratic congresswoman who was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, while working at the "Congress On Your Corner" event Zimmerman organized outside a northwest-side Safeway. Giffords was one of 13 people injured that day; Zimmerman was one of six killed.

Tuesday will mark the first time a room in the vast, 580,000-square-foot Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., will be named for a congressional staff member, officials with the Architect of the Capitol say. Zimmerman is the first and only U.S. House of Representatives staff member killed while on the job.

"No other staff member has ever been honored this way in the Capitol, and it is absolutely justified," said U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who worked closely with Zimmerman when the two were Giffords aides together. "The life he led during his very brief time on the planet is a great example of public service at its best."

Barber, who was seriously injured in the shooting, replaced Giffords in Congress after she resigned her seat due to her injuries. In the fall, Barber won another two-year term.

The Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room will be used by members of the House of Representatives. The House Democratic caucus regularly meets in the room, which has an official room number of HVC 215.

It will not be open to members of the public unless they are accompanied by a member of Congress.

The process to get the room named and then create a plaque with Zimmerman's likeness on it has taken the better part of two years. Congress approved naming the room in 2011, and then it took a year to get a bas relief likeness of Zimmerman on a bronze plaque exactly right. The Architect of the Capitol, which is the federal agency with stewardship of the U.S. Capitol, gave the Zimmerman family leeway to make sure Gabe was accurately represented.

The search for an artist began in February 2012, and after talking to numerous people, Zimmerman's father chose Tucson sculptor Joseph Lupiani for the task. Lupiani is expected to attend Tuesday's dedication.

"Everyone with the Giffords/Barber office was satisfied," said Gabe's father, Ross Zimmerman. "Different groups of people who knew Gabe have had their own ways of remembering him."

The Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead off Marsh Station Road southeast of Tucson gives outdoor enthusiasts an opportunity to remember the Tucson native and University High School graduate. A memorial at Barber's Tucson office is a reminder for Zimmerman's co-workers and also for constituents.

Over Easter weekend, Ross Zimmerman visited with his son's college friends at the University of California-Santa Cruz. They had a private memorial service and scattered his ashes.

The room at the Capitol has a different meaning, Ross said. It will be a tribute to congressional staffers who often toil in anonymity yet ensure government is working for the public.

"This is a place where day-to-day government functions, like what was happening that day at Safeway," he said. "People who work in Congress can relate to what Gabe was doing. The plaque could be there for centuries and hopefully inspire people."

Gabe's mother, Emily Nottingham, his brother, Ben, his grandparents and father all plan to attend on Tuesday as do many Giffords staff members.

"It will be sort of a reunion," said C.J. Karamargin, who was Giffords' spokesman when the shooting occurred.

Karamargin said his memories of Zimmerman always make him recall a statement made by U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the speaker of the house, immediately after the shooting.

"He said that an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve," said Karamargin, who now works at Pima Community College and has a picture of Zimmerman above his computer. "Gabe died in the service of his country."

Karamargin said he hopes the memorial will serve as an example to Washington lawmakers who will be debating measures to reduce gun violence this week.

"They can't agree on simple, common sense things," Karamargin said. "Staffers like Gabe can really help people. They can serve as a reminder to people in Washington to get their act together and realize they are there for a reason. The only more fitting memorial to Gabe would be for the tone to change in Washington."

Barber is scheduled to speak at Tuesday's ceremony, as is U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who sponsored the legislation naming the room in Zimmerman's honor. Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi are also expected to participate.

Barber said Zimmerman continues to influence constituent services in Arizona's Congressional District 2, which Barber represents.

"Gabe was a great organizer, so good with people, and a real mentor to his staff," Barber said. "All of us just loved this guy and what he did. There is no better way to remember him."

The ceremony to dedicate the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room is to be live-streamed at noon Arizona time on Tuesday. Go to Speaker.gov/Live

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4143.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Election 2014 video

More

Election 2014: Early ballot deadline and where to vote

Learn how to turn in your early election ballot or find your polling place with the help of Star reporters …

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Community Workshop @ The Drop

The Drop Dance Studio is proud to present....

Get weekly ads via e-mail