The first time I met Gadiel Szleifer was at Pro Tour Chicago 2003. My brother Noah and I were attending our first JSS qualifier together. Because this was our first big event, we sat down thinking this was our first round (although it was really just the Player's Meeting). Noah sat right across from Gadiel and took out his deck.
"Shotgun go first," Gadiel stated.
Noah and I looked at each other in confusion. "What is he saying?" we thought.
"Shotgun go first."
Noah became even more puzzled and blurted out, "What do you mean? That's not fair."
"Shotgun go first. Those are the rules. I can call over a judge if you'd like."
Gadiel then proceeded to pull over a judge. Unbeknownst to us, he was a friend of Gadiel's.
"Oh yeah, shotgun go first. Those are the rules, he'll play first this game."
Noah and I looked around in disbelief. After a moment or two, everyone else at the table erupted in laughter.
I was annoyed that day, but as I spent more time with him I came to realize that Gadiel was one of the people that made the Magic community special. He took this game we all loved and used his charm to enhance the experience to something greater. Gadiel's banter and light-hearted mischief were some of the main reasons why I continued to go to Magic tournaments over the years.
Years later, when we were both spending much less time playing Magic, I became interested in pursuing a job in the Financial Trading industry. Without hesitation, Gadiel reached out to me, described in detail what he liked about his job, what he didn't like about his job, and even helped me get an interview at his firm.
Gaming communities are made special by the people in them. It's because of the people, not the game, that the Magic community is something I'm extremely thankful for. Without the people, nearly every job and opportunity that I've ever had wouldn't have happened. But more importantly, without support from Gadiel, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Thank you, Gadiel, for all that you've done. Rest in Peace. I'll miss you buddy.