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Posted on Mon. Apr. 15, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Hit-run victim had a passion for guitars

Philharmonic worker struck on motorcycle

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Police believe the vehicle that left the scene was a Ford Expedition, an Eddie Bauer edition from between 1997 and 2003. The upper half is teal, and the lower half is tan. The SUV has damage around the headlight on the front passenger side and may have damage to the passenger side. It was last seen headed east on Wayne Street. Anyone with information is asked to call the Fort Wayne Police Department at 427-1373 or 427-1222.

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Jason Gnagey had the Beatles logo tattooed on his chest. He played the saxophone in bars around town. He could build guitars and repair them.

Music was central in his life, so it made sense that he worked as a stagehand for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. That’s where he was Saturday night.

After the performance, the 27-year-old was busy when his father, a musician in the orchestra, let him know he was leaving.

“Fortunately, I went over to him and touched him and said goodnight,” Sam Gnagey said. “Had I known, of course, I would have made it a more intense goodbye.”

Hours later, Jason Gnagey was killed in a hit-and-run crash. Police have no witnesses but they believe he was riding his motorcycle east on Wayne Street before the crash happened at Clay Street.

Someone who heard the impact and then saw the motorcycle on its side called 911 about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Gnagey, who was wearing his helmet, died at the scene, according to police. His death was the 11th traffic fatality in Allen County this year, the county coroner’s office said.

Investigators believe the vehicle that left the scene was a Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer edition between 1997 and 2003. The SUV was last seen headed east on Wayne Street.

Gnagey’s friend and roommate, Jenn Ferguson, was at a loss to explain how someone could have driven away from such a crash.

“It doesn’t sound like they could have helped him, but they didn’t even try,” she said. “I don’t know how people can do that.”

Gnagey’s friends said he was coming home after meeting up with an old girlfriend at a restaurant on Calhoun Street.

“We’re trying to kind of take comfort in knowing that he probably had a really fun time,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson met Gnagey when they were elementary students at Canterbury School. He attended Churubusco High School and later earned a GED diploma. In recent years, he took classes at Midwest Guitar Repair and Building School in St. Louis.

“He hand-carved and sanded every bit of this,” Ferguson said as she held an electric guitar he had been building.

Gnagey’s friend, Dustin Hughes, considered him a little brother, a lovable one who would sometimes sleep on Hughes’ couch.

When he would visit, Gnagey would wash Hughes’ dishes or take his dog out.

“Nothing in this world meant more to him than his friendships,” Hughes said.

For Gnagey, riding his motorcycle also meant a lot.

“If there wasn’t ice on the road, he was riding that bike,” Hughes said.

Gnagey was a skillful guitar player, but lately he had been focused on the saxophone, Ferguson said. He would go to open jams to play at bars, and he had until recently performed in a band called Black Cat Mambo, she said.

His sister, Rochelle Skolnick, described Gnagey as kind and gentle. He lost his mother, who also played in the Philharmonic, when he was 10 years old, Skolnick said.

“It’s just very sad to see him gone now, too,” she said.

aingersoll@jg.net


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