Ari Gershman, a California physician and pharmaceutical executive, was always looking for ways to make people's lives better.
From running clinical trials to providing medical advice to anyone in need, Ari had a knack for helping people.
"Ari was incredibly giving and humble," his wife Paige, tells PEOPLE. "He would just do anything to help anyone."
He also adored his family, and was always looking for ways to have fun with them.
A few years back, he took his family on a tour of Italy, where they made pizza. He would mountain bike and snowboard with his son Evan, 16, and bond with his 15-year-old son Jack over trivia.
“That was his goal,” Paige says. “Whatever his plan was, it was always just, 'How can we do something great?'”
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More recently, he bought a 2013 red Jeep Rubicon so he could explore his passion for outdoor activities with his children.
It would be his last gift to his family.
The day after he brought the Jeep home, on July 3, 2020, he and Jack went for a day of off-roading in Tahoe National Forest in the new Jeep — a four-hour drive from their Danville home.
The duo were on an off-roading trail in the Poker Flat Region when they stopped to get their bearings. At that point, a blue ATV pulled behind their Jeep "from out of nowhere," Jack recalls to PEOPLE.
They were about to ask the driver for directions when gunshots rang out, hitting Ari, who fell out of the Jeep. Jack was able to escape, and took off running into the woods, where he spent the next 24-hours before he was found by K-9 teams trained in human tracking from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
(The case was featured in a recent episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show).
For more on this brave teen’s escape – and the Gershman family – subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
Since Ari’s death, the outpouring of love and support from the family's community as well as his medical peers, including a GoFundme page, has been “overwhelming,” says Paige.
Ari's college classmate Domagoj Gotovac wrote on the page about how Ari spent hours counseling Gotovac as his father lay dying of COVID-19.
"Heaven gained an angel, but we lost an incredible person," Gotovac wrote.
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"Ari Gershman played a big role in a medication that has personally changed my life,” wrote Brittany Holmes. “I started as a patient in the clinical trials, and finished school to end up working in the same field and prescribing the same medication for my own patients. I have watched it improve countless lives, and it wouldn't have been possible without people like Ari Gershman.”
“He always tried to help people,” says Jack about his late dad. “Knowing that makes me feel more like his life is more complete, like he was successful in the time he had."
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