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Information provided by Faith Coley Salie, Gail's daughter.
This month marks 15 years since Gail Coley Salie died at the age of 53 of endometrial cancer. She left behind her sons Douglas and David, her daughter Faith and her beloved husband of 32 years, Bob. She also left behind countless friends and family who felt profoundly the loss of her grace, energy, generosity, light, joy, humility, curiosity, commitment, and laughter. Not to mention the amazing Bespoke gingerbread houses for which she became famous.
My mom attended a small women's college in Maryland called Notre Dame after graduating from Father Lopez. Legend has it that my father sneaked into a dance and immediately upon spying her in a yellow sweater set, told his buddy, "That's the girl I'm going to marry." And so they did, forever extinguishing my mother's noodling about becoming a nun. She transferred to George Washington University in DC and graduated in 1965, which was also the year she married my dad.
Our family lived in Massachusetts until 1976 when we moved to Atlanta. My mother was what folks called a "homemaker" in the 70s and 80s--which sells short all that she was: a CCD teacher, a very competitive tennis player, a volunteer who taught ESL and worked at a rape crisis center, an amateur gourmet chef, a Eucharistic minister, and the world's best mother and wife. She attended church every day except Sunday, which always made us laugh (we liked hitting the Saturday vigil mass)--she was somehow home from church in the morning in time to make her kids' lunches and take us to school. Speaking for myself, my mother was everything to me: my childhood playmate, my first and always teacher, my cheerleader and chauffeur, my workout buddy, my constant audience--flying even to Scotland and England to see me perform. She was my costumer: I remember her running through the snow across Harvard Yard with a poodle skirt she'd made for me when I was playing Sandy in "Grease"--just hours before the show was set to open. She was my confidante and my best friend. She was the center of our family, and somehow she made everyone with whom she connected feel listened to, special, understood. You were your best self in my mother's eyes. Even as she was dying the hospice workers remarked that she was the kindest patient for whom they'd ever cared.
When I, her youngest, was in college in the 90s, my mom went back to school for her Masters in Comparative Religion from Loyola University in NOLA. We were working on term papers at the same time. My mother was always fascinated with all religion--we ate matzoh during Passover in our Catholic home, and I'd come home from school to find the Jehovah's Witnesses having tea with mom, who really just wanted to know all about their beliefs, because Mom's interest was, well, catholic with a small "c."
Before she died in 1997, my mother began to travel often and far--to visit her kids in Japan and Russia and England and Italy. She also traveled across philosophical boundaries, expanding her mind and heart, especially when it came to embracing completely her son David when he came out a couple of years before she died. A month before she died, she attended David's wedding to his husband Mark. My mom would be delighted about David and Mark's daughter Tallulah Gail Bromley-Salie--as well as her other grandchildren Landon, Gabrielle, and Isabelle Salie and her newest grandchild--the first baby of her 41 year-old baby--Augustus Salie-Semel.
She was the most beautiful person any of us have known, and it was our family's gift to be beside her when she died on October 30th, 1997. She placed her faith in God always. The following is what my dad read at her funeral. It is written by Virginia Woolf about her own mother's death, and it forever expresses our loss and our light:
If what I have said of her has any meaning you will believe that her death was the greatest disaster that could happen; it was as though on some brilliant day of spring the racing clouds of a sudden stood still, grew dark, and massed themselves; the wind flagged and all the creatures on the earth moaned or wandered seeking aimlessly. But what figure or variety of figures will do justice to the shapes which since then she has taken in countless lives? The dead, so people say, are forgotten, or they should rather say, that life has for the most part little significance to any of us. But now and again on more occasions than I can number, in bed at night, or in the street, or as I come into the room, there she is; beautiful, emphatic, with her familiar phrase and her laugh; closer than any of the living are, lighting our random lives as with a burning torch, infinitely noble and delightful to her children. --Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being
In preperation for the 1989 Lopez "Early Years 1960-1965" reunion, the following survey was sent to all class members.
Name: Gail E Coley
Address: 240 Skyridge Drive, Dunwoody, GA
Spouses Name: Dr Robert D Solie
Date of Marriage: 28 Dec 1965
Names of Children/Dates of Birth: Douglas Robert/23 May 1967; David Perry/12 Sept 1968; Faith Coley/14 Apr 1971
Spouses Occupation: Realtor/Investments
Hobbies: Tennis, Reading, Gardening, Travel