Chip Gaines Mourning Sad Passing of Friend at Only 32, 'I Miss Her Already'

June 12, 2019Jun 12, 2019

Athlete Gabriele Grunewald sadly passed away yesterday. The runner had been battling cancer for a decade.

Her friend Chip Gaines issued a statement to PEOPLE after the news broke to mourn his friend. He vowed to be brave just like his friend.

“Gabe is my friend, and I miss her already,” Gaines told PEOPLE in a statement. “She inspired everyone she met during her life and even in death—as only she can do—she will continue to inspire. I’m going to run today in her honor. I’m going to be brave today in her honor.”

Chip and Gabe first met in New York City. Gabe agreed to help the HGTV star train for running in Waco’s Silo District Marathon.

“The things she taught me and my family about grace and perseverance, and about hope will live with us for the rest of our lives,” he added. “I’m thankful to God for that chance encounter she and I shared nearly two years ago, I’m thankful for our friendship and I’m thankful for the time we had together. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Some hours before, Gaines took to Twitter to remember Grunewald. He said he'd be going on a long a jog for her.

Gaines also shared a Twitter message several hours before Grunewald’s death was confirmed, vowing to jog today in her honor.

Hours before she passed away, Gaines took to social media to celebrate her courage and the fight with which she approached life. He promised to personally match donations to her charity, Brave Like Gabe.

"More than 10 years ago, my friend @gigrunewald was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. I understand that Gabe is not a patient at @StJude, but right now, she is fighting for her life. Cancer is ugly and it is mean and it doesn’t fight fair. This has gotten extremely personal.. so here’s what I’m going to do about it: I want us to hit that $500K mark by midnight tonight. So I will be personally matching all #ChipInChallenge donations made between now and midnight. ON TOP OF THAT, I'll also be matching that amount in the form of a donation to the #BraveLikeGabe Foundation, in Gabe's honor. That is 3x the power of your generosity in the fight against cancer.. and all YOU need to do is donate whatever you can to the #ChipInChallenge (link in bio) between now and midnight CT. I’ll take care of the rest. Together, we’re going to fight for those who are fighting for just one more day. This is for those precious kids at St. Jude.. we are pulling for you! And to my beautiful friend Gabe.. we love you and we are here for you every step of the way.

Grunewald died Tuesday evening at age 32. She was struggling with a rare cancer, but she continued to run throughout three more bouts with cancer.

Grunewald went through surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Sadly, they could not cure her cancer.

Her husband, Justin Grunewald, announced the sad news on Instagram. He revealed that she had passed away at 7:52 p.m.

"At 7:52 I said 'I can’t wait until I get to see you again' to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife. @gigrunewald I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends."

He continued, "To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need."

Gabrielle was admitted to the intensive care unit at a Minneapolis hospital on June 4 with septic shock. She was given a new drug in the hope it would prolong her life.

"Her liver function deteriorated early Sunday morning, and she was moved to comfort care. Monday, she was brought home to the couple’s Minneapolis condo, where she died surrounded by family and close friends," reported the Tribune.

Grunewald was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009. She refused to give up her ambitions as a runner.

“She was one tough son-of-a-gun,’’ said former Gophers cross-country coach Gary Wilson, who was at Grunewald’s bedside Monday. “Gabe was a fighter from the get-go. She gave people something we all need: hope. That’s her legacy.

Grunewald ran track and cross-country for the Gophers under her maiden name of Gabriele Anderson. She was a fifth-year senior when she first learned she had cancer.

Following surgery and radiation therapy, she finished second in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 NCAA championships. She still holds the Gophers record in the 1,500, with a time of four minutes, 13.45 seconds.

She went on to almost compete at the Olympics. Grunewald finished fourth in the 1,500 at the 2012 Olympic trials, missing the team for the London Summer Games by one spot.

Her motto became “rest doesn’t cure cancer.’’ She began the Brave Like Gabe foundation to raise money and awareness for research into rare cancers, while her social media accounts inspired 77,000 followers.

HGTV star Chip Gaines, whom Gabe Grunewald trained for his first marathon, wrote “All I ever want is to be #bravelikegabe.’’ Olympic distance runner Kara Goucher, a Duluth native, wrote “Thank you for showing me what bravery looks like, and for being such a constant source of inspiration.’’

Grunewald ran her last race in 2017. Please join us in praying for her husband and the rest of her family as they deal with her sad passing.

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