WATERLOO — Good things can come out of deep personal tragedy. University of Iowa wrestling legend and Waterloo native Dan Gable knows.
He was 15 years old when his older sister, Diane, was raped and murdered in their family home in Waterloo. That was 1964 and even in 2012, Gable still feels the pain. But from it he also has drawn strength.
He believes it helped shape who he became and the successes he had later on.
Gable, now living in Iowa City, has followed the story of Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins. Although the circumstances are different, he can empathize with the feeling of loss for those who loved the girls. And while the girls are gone, he’s convinced the experience has impacted enough people that positive ripples will be felt for along time.
Gable and his parents were out of town when they found out Diane had been killed. On the way back to Waterloo, Gable recalled a conversation he had a few days earlier with John Thomas Kyle in which Kyle had said some inappropriate things about Diane. Gable and his parents stopped driving and immediately called Waterloo police. Kyle was arrested soon after and confessed to the crimes.
While Gable said his much-renowned work ethic and drive were established before Diane was gone, he could point to one trait that directly resulted from the death of his sister: He vowed to always act immediately, after dealing with guilt from that conversation with Kyle.
“I’ve had a lot of success in my life and I’d have to go back and think that point in time had a lot to do it,” he said. “It’s hard for most people to comprehend.”
Gable has affected a lot of lives over the years, from his own family to Iowa Hawkeye athletes to just plain sports fans across the country who have found him an inspiration. And he can track a bit of that legacy back to his long-departed sister.
“The more you can settle into focusing on what you have and what you would like to do and where you want to go — a positive point of view — the quicker things turn around and positive things start to happen,” he said.
Gable said Diane’s death brought his family closer together and gave him more of a sense of focus. He said those who loved the two cousins still have to work through their grieving, but new strengths will be revealed.
“Over time there’s no telling how many this will actually make a difference with in a positive way,” he said.
For Gable, the pain has never gone away. He got a phone call in the summer of 2011 from a prison warden letting him know that Kyle would soon be dead. It brought back an intense wave of grief. It made him realize there was still a lot left inside that he never got out so many years ago.
“It’s not ever going to be perfect, there’s not a perfect path,” he said.