In Memory Of Big Josh

In July of 2016, the local bar industry was struck with some hard news. A fellow bartender, Joshua Gehlbach, known to most as “Big Josh” was diagnosed with cancer.

Big Josh towered above most of his co-workers and bar-goers, standing at 6 feet, 8 inches, called by some a “gentle giant.”

Not only was Josh a big guy, but he had a big heart, as described perfectly by a friend of his, Laura Oliver, “I’ll never forget how small you made me feel in height and how big you made me feel as a person. I think you had that effect on everyone you came across. You had this special quality that made us all feel like you looked forward to seeing us each time. And it was always a pleasure to introduce people to the most awesome person, Big Joshua Gehlbach. Thank you for your endless smiles and larger than life hugs.”

The diagnosis for Josh was not only devastating to those closest to him but brought attention to the fact that a lot of service industry employees don’t have many options when it comes to medical and financial security in the event of a hardship such as Josh’s.

The San Diego bartender community banded together, not only to help Josh but to help other industry workers without those safety nets in place who may fall victim to hard times in the future.

The Big Josh Foundation was created by Josh and his friends, Pat Giblin and Dave Robin and still stands to act as some kind of assistance for members of the local service industry who may need help due to illness. Amber Hill (Manager, The Local PB) and Vito LaMagese (Manager, The PB Shore Club) are also close friends of Josh and have played huge roles in the foundation.

On March 14th, Big Josh lost his battle with cancer and although his family, friends and other members of the community are devastated that such an amazing soul was lost, his memory will live on; not only in their hearts, but with The Big Josh Foundation. With the news of his passing, the Big Josh Foundation Facebook page posted the following:

“It pains us beyond words to the share the heartbreaking news that early this morning Joshua Gehlbach has been taken very peacefully from us by cancer. He will never truly leave us through his legacy, love, and personality. As in life, please respect the family’s wish for privacy in this time of mourning. Arrangements will be shared as soon as possible.”

We reached out to Jon Wantz, General Manager of Miller’s Field in Pacific Beach where Josh worked until the day he was diagnosed. According to Jon, who has worked in the service industry for over 20 years, said he had never seen the kind of outpouring of love and support for Josh and his foundation. Saying “He was an amazing person,” and adding that the work they are doing with his foundation, “will really be a lasting legacy for him [Josh] and definitely have Big Josh giving back to the community he spent his life in.”

Our hearts and prayers go out to Big Josh and his family during this very sad time. If you wish to donate, here is a link to the GoFundMe page started for Josh https://www.gofundme.com/2h8svfhu.