ELYRIA — Alice Gobeille arrived at her Harrison Street home at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday after work and knew immediately something was wrong.
The grass hadn’t been mowed even though her husband, Dale, had said that was on his to-do list for the day. She also hadn’t heard from him, which wasn’t the norm.
She raced around looking for him and found her husband face down next to his tractor in the Black River.
She screamed for guests in her home to call 911 and slid down the steep bank leading to the river in their backyard, swam over to his body and held him until emergency responders helped her from the water and placed Dale’s body into a boat for transport.
Dale, 61, had been driving his tractor to dump lawn clippings in a dumping spot near the edge of the property. Apparently, when the trailer tipped to the edge of the property, it pulled Dale and the tractor down the cliff and into the river. Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans told Alice Gobeille and her family that it had happened no later than 10 a.m. and the cause of death was head trauma and drowning.
On Wednesday, the 55-year-old woman said she’ll never forget the love between her and Dale, their special connection and the life they had shared.
“We had a beautiful life together; we really did,” she said. “We had everything.”
The two met as divorced, 30-something parents in Community College of Rhode Island around 1990. Alice had four kids and was living on welfare and Dale had one son. She had majored in chemical technology, he had majored in electronic engineering.
One of the biggest reasons why she fell in love with Dale, she said, was that he made her laugh during a difficult time in her life. She recalled sitting at the smoking table in the cafeteria when he would come by and tell her funny stories to keep her spirits up.
They spent so much time in college together that she missed him after graduating. She decided to ask him to go to a beach in 1991.
A year later, they were married and spent 23 years together and combined families. Then it all changed in 2013 when Dale suffered a heart attack that affected his brain and changed his personality. The change was caused by the lack of oxygen to his brain during the heart attack.
“Within six months, he no longer wanted a family and children and a house,” she said.
At Dale’s request, they divorced in 2015. Alice said she was lost and trying to regroup when she moved to Northeast Ohio from South Carolina. But she missed him, she said, and she prayed they’d reunite.
And they did. On June 27, 2017, they remarried on what would have been their 25th anniversary.
Dale retired from his data storage engineering job with Hitachi and moved in with her in Elyria, where they planned to start a new life using the new large home as a bed-and-breakfast. They weren’t an official one yet, so they had been hosting guests by way of Airbnb for three months. They had a guest in the house Tuesday.
Their new marriage also brought them back to the Catholic Church. The two would spend more time at church events and church community gatherings.
Alice described her husband as a wonderful man, her best friend and her world. She remembered him as a tough man with a passion for cars and motorcycles as well as a sensitive and passionate. He’d always speak his mind on any topic and was well-read, reading multiple newspapers daily from cover to cover.
He served 12 years in the Army Corps of Engineers from the 1970s to 1980s before being medically discharged due to a hockey injury.
Alice’s daughter, Rita Roy, drove 10 hours from Massachusetts overnight Tuesday to console her mother as soon as she heard what happened. Roy said her stepfather, Dale, was in her life since she was 4. Dale wasn’t as close to her during her childhood as he wanted her to stay connected to her biological father, but when she reached adulthood they became closer and she saw him as her real father.
She said she always looks for a man who would love her like Dale loved her mother.
Dale, she said, always talked about retiring and spending his golden years with Alice as empty-nesters. For a moment, it seemed like that dream wouldn’t happen after the divorce, but things seemed like they were back on track when they remarried after he started taking medication.
Roy felt frustrated at the way she lost her father and her mother lost her soul mate. It didn’t seem fair, she said.
“He could not wait for this part of his life, and he was robbed of it,” she said.
Alice said she doesn’t know what will happen next. This chapter of her life was supposed to be spent with the love of her life as they grew old together. But now, barely a year after starting again, Alice has to figure out where she’ll continue.
“I don’t have to worry about it because God will put the steps in front of me, and I will just follow them,” she said. “That’s what he’s done in the past, and that’s what he’s done for me now.”