The former WWE superstar died in May after he went missing in the waters off of Venice Beach

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 30, 2020 11:28 AM
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When Siliana Gaspard wants to be reminded of her late husband, WWE superstar Shad Gaspard, she doesn't need to look far.

"Shad was a family man, an excellent father, and it shows in our son," the 32-year-old tells PEOPLE of 10-year-old Aryeh Gaspard. "Everyone has nothing but good things to say about him, and how well-behaved he is, how well-mannered he is, and they all give me credit. But the truth is, it took two of us, and Shad was a big part of that."

It's been just over a month since Shad — a former member of the popular WWE tag team Cryme Tyme — went missing in the waters off of Venice Beach, California, on May 18. Shad and Aryeh were spending the day swimming when they were caught under a strong ocean current.

Aryeh was later saved by rescuers, while lifeguards with the Los Angeles County Fire Department found Shad dead three days later.

"We're just doing our best to push forward," Siliana says of losing Shad, 39. "We're just trying to ensure that his legacy lives on through his projects and, of course, our son. He is the most important thing for both of us. So I have to stay strong for him."

Siliana and Shad Gaspard
Siliana Gaspard

Siliana and Shad met at a Tampa, Florida, bar in January 2009. According to Siliana, it was his size and light-hearted personality that instantly made him stand out from the crowd that night.

"He was the biggest person there, so you couldn't miss him," she recalls. "He was just very charismatic after you spent some time with him, he had an energy. He had a presence that it was just enjoyable to be around him."

The two kept in contact by phone and just four months later, Siliana moved from Florida to Houston, Texas, to be with Shad. They were soon married and welcomed Aryeh in April 2010.

"Shad was like the king of the gentle giants," Siliana recalls of her hulking husband, who stood at a massive 6 ft., 7 in. "His joke with us was because I'm so much smaller than him, people would look at him and think that he was the one not to mess with, but actually he's the sweet one and I'm the mean one."

But Shad also knew his strength and when he should use it, such as when he stopped a robbery at a gas station in Coral Springs, Florida, in 2016. Even after that incident, Shad told a local news station that he hoped the would-be thief could turn his life around.

"He was really sweet, just really loving. Shad loves everyone regardless of if they love him or not," she says. "Regardless of if they wanted his love, he still gave it to them."

This love also extended to pop culture, Siliana says, and Shad was busy developing an animal-focused cartoon and a live-action show about the Haitian revolution.

He also provided motion capture for Kratos, the main character in the hit PlayStation 4 video game, God of War. But it was his love of anime such as One Piece and Dragon Ball Z that he and Aryeh bonded over. Siliana says the two were best friends, and Shad also bestowed his love of fitness onto his son.

"Shad would write it out for him," she says. "He had it on schedule and then they would box daily, whether it was at home or on the beach. I mean, literally every day together, almost all day."

"Yeah, he was a wrestler. Yeah, he was more than 6-feet tall," Siliana adds to PEOPLE. "But at the end of the day, he just really cared for his family more than anything."

A GoFundMe has been set up by the family's friends to benefit Aryeh and has raised over $154,000.

On the day Shad went missing, it was reported that he directed emergency personnel to rescue his son before him once they arrived. Fellow bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger called Shad the "ultimate hero" on social media while referencing this valiant effort to save his son.

Shad Gaspard with his son
Siliana Gaspard

Knowing what Shad did in his final moments brings a sense of comfort to Siliana, even if she's not surprised by it.

"I'm not surprised that Shad did that, because that's who Shad is. I wasn't surprised to see my son come back," Siliana says. "I was surprised that Shad didn't."

"But he was just himself at that moment. That's really the best way I can explain it," she adds. "He just did exactly what he would do."