Gabe Zimmerman organized the event in Tucson on Saturday where he was shot to death.

As Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' community outreach director, Zimmerman was a key organizer for all the "Congresswoman on the Corner" events over the years that were aimed at bringing his boss closer to constituents. This work was a natural fit, said friends and fellow politicos, who described Zimmerman as a tireless organizer and gentle man uniquely gifted at working with average folk.

"He was at Gabrielle's side at these 'Congresswoman on the Corner' events," recalled a longtime colleague, Tom Zoellner, an author and a volunteer in Giffords' campaigns. "He would take down their names and their information, and he would pledge to get to work on it. This stuff matters. The 'Congresswoman on the Corner' thing was Gabrielle's idea, but it was Gabe's bailiwick."

Zimmerman, 30 and a Tucson native, worked for Giffords since her first congressional campaign in 2006. He started as a field organizer, became constituent services director when Giffords took office and later took on outreach duties. That job put him in charge of logistics for all of Giffords' public district events. He helped constituents with day-to-day details such as Social Security checks.

"He would go out of his way to help people in trouble," recalled Daniel Graver, who hired Zimmerman in 2006 and worked 18 months for Giffords as a legislative assistant. "People would come into the congressional office, he would listen to them and give them money for a cab home. Some days during a campaign I would harass him to take a weekend off from his job to work on the campaign. He said to me that if I didn't work, people wouldn't make phone calls but if he didn't work, people didn't eat."

From childhood, Zimmerman had a real gift for working with people, said his father, Ross Zimmerman, a senior network organizer at Pima Community College. Gabe's work fit his schooling: a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a master's of social work at Arizona State University, Gabe's father said.

He was engaged to Kelly O'Brien, a Yuma native and a Tucson Medical Center nurse, Ross Zimmerman said.

He was an avid runner and athlete, who twice hiked the Grand Canyon from the North to the South Rim.

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Last August, he was one of eight people who ran to the top of "A" Mountain to celebrate Tucson's birthday, recalled a friend, Ward 1 City Council aide Diana Rhoades, who described Zimmerman as "wonderful with constituents, energetic, enthusiastic and full of life."

Zimmerman is also survived by his mother, Emily Nottingham, a retired city of Tucson community services administrator, and a brother, Ben Zimmerman, a master's degree student in business and finance at Brandeis University.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746.