Parking entrepreneur dies

The co-founder of Colonial Parking, a District garage company named after GW’s mascot, died last month at the GW Hospital.

Serge Gambal, 84, died Oct. 16 of congestive heart failure. Friends and loved ones remember him as a loving father and husband, capable businessman and generous philanthropic supporter.

Since its inception in 1953, Colonial Parking has acquired more than 180 parking venues in the Washington area, making about $100 million in annual revenue.

Gambal founded Colonial Parking when he was a GW student with Tad Lindner in December of 1950. The two met at the Sigma Nu fraternity and came up with the idea after Lidner was offered a parking lot on 25th and E streets.

In 1953 they formed a corporation and named their company after the mascot of their alma mater, the GW Colonials.

Gambal’s love for his own family and personal connection to his work instilled a family culture in Colonial Parking. His main responsibility at the company was handling financial operations.

“When we were kids (Gambal) used to work a half-day on Saturday just to check things out, and we used to drive around to parking lots and make sure they were always clean and neat and tidy and something he could take pride in,” Gambal’s son Paul said.

In November 1990, Serge Gambal suffered from a stroke and was paralyzed on the right side of the body. He subsequently suffered from aphasia, the lack of ability to speak. Despite his handicap, he remained involved with his business, projects and family.

“He would ask me to call the secretary of the president for Colonial Parking and ask him to send the daily report every day,” said Joe Dualpang, Gambal’s caregiver of 17 years. “He was very sharp – he would read it line by line.”

The day before he was rushed to GW Hospital, where he spent the last three weeks of his life, he was still getting his daily reports from Colonial Parking.

Before his death, Gambal was an active donor to GW. University President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg often spoke of the company and its two founders during Colonial Inauguration.

“He was an extraordinary source of immense pride for the University,” Trachtenberg said. “He loved GW and we loved him.

Trachtenberg added, “He was a generous benefactor and caring graduate who cared about students and faculty. I would see him walking across campus all the time. He will be missed.”

Gambal also helped build and maintain The Lab School of Washington – an elementary school for children with learning disabilities.

“We nearly had to close down as an innovative pilot school and (Gambal) managed to take over some payrolls and remove a tree that was falling down and help keep us running,” said Sally Smith, the founder and director of the Lab School who worked with Gambal for more than 30 years.

“He was very, very involved and cared deeply about kids learning to read and make it in the world, and he was passionate about helping to build institutions,” says Smith.

“Both Tad Lindner and Serge Gambal are good examples of what kind of education you get at The George Washington University,” said Julia Horman, chief financial officer of Colonial Parking. “They came away well prepared for their future.”

“I don’t know why but he loved (GW basketball),” said son Paul Gambal. “He still has tickets to this day. Now I take my son.”

Serge Gambal is survived by his four children, Alex, Paul, Krista Holloway and Leah Alfageme, and five grandchildren.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.