About 24 years ago, when I first set foot on US soil, I was picked up from the Miami airport by a man who I only knew by talking to on the phone. He had somewhat of a Hispanic accent and didn’t look at all, like the typical American that I was familiar with from the movies.
He introduced himself as Gaston Bernal and welcomed us to the United States. I told him that I had watched Miami Vice on tv and asked him if I should be concerned about my safety, since Miami had a bad reputation in Europe because of the show.
He looked at me like I’d just fell out of a flying saucer and said very calmly; “The only thing you should be worry about, is a storm that carries a name.” It was only during my first experience of Hurricane season, that I realized what he meant!
Gaston, almost immediately opened up his home to us, a couple of strangers that did not know how or what to expect, setting up shop in the US. He took us under his wing and showed us the ropes of doing business within the modeling industry. He introduced me to several of his business contacts and helped me getting my family settled. He became a very dear friend over time.
Although we did not see or talk to each other much over the past years because of distance and life, Gaston was always there for me when I needed his advice or help. Almost every year, when possible, we met at the IPMS Nationals and caught up with the latest.
Besides being a successful business man, he was also an avid and great modeler, who’s passion for airplanes was unquestionably displayed in his Aeromaster and Eaglestrike decal lines, which became two of the most prolific brand-names in the industry. I also remember Gaston as a wonderful husband and father.
Sadly Gaston, after a serious illness, has passed away and left us all speechless and struck with sadness.
The industry will never be the same without him and I for one, like many others, will miss him dearly. Luckily for all of us, he left a big enough footprint to always be remembered as an icon.
God speed Gaston! Until we meet again!