Gayle Elizabeth Willoughby got her long-stated desire for a “new body” on May 7th, 2022, as she passed peacefully to be with Jesus. She was released from a dramatic decline with dementia in the past few years – moving into The Walford in 2020 and to Hogarth Riverview Manor (Bluebell) in April 2021. She was a vital, fun, witty, inspiring, and intelligent friend to so many through her 82-year life. We miss her - but thank God she has been given freedom to be her wonderful self again.
Gayle was born in Winnipeg October 16, 1940, to Lloyd and Gertrude Kennedy. She moved to Terrace Bay, Ontario in the late 40s with the start-up of the new mill, when Gertrude remarried Charles Reginald Cotton. Gayle grew up there - graduating from Terrace Bay High School in 1959. Along the way she got her Grade 8 Royal Conservatory Piano and Level 2 Theory.
In 1959 she married Dale Willoughby (Schreiber). They moved to Fort William where he taught, and they raised 2 sons, Jody, and Shawn. She worked at McKellar Hospital as a ward secretary in the early 70s and managed many federal, provincial, and municipal election campaigns for her husband from 1975 to 1982. She worked for Statistics Canada and the Port Arthur Clinic in the late 80s, and in 1989 joined the Erickson Larson Law Firm in Corporate/Commercial Law as Administrator. She was a member of the Confederation College “Office Administration Advisory Committee” and became Chair in 1990. In 1991 she joined the Law Firm of Christie Potestio, working as Corporate Law Clerk for David Christie until her retirement at the age of 70. Her reputation with her bosses, clients and colleagues was legendary.
Gayle was renowned for remembering people’s birthdays and special occasions with the perfect card – usually humorous – sometimes rude. She was admired for her strength, integrity, intelligence, and loyalty. But everyone who knew her remembers best her razor-sharp wit. She was the master of the one-liner and the life of every party. Everyone she encountered grew to love her for her quirky sense of humour. She had the most amazing vocabulary and was a killer at all word games. Gayle was predeceased by her best friend and sister-in-law Edith Willoughby in the late 90s. They were a dangerous pair at parties. They loved to hike in God’s nature. She was also predeceased in 2010 by a great friend and confidante Kathy Van Vliet. These two women were significant losses for her.
Gayle was embraced and set free to be herself and serve others when she joined Redwood Park Church around 1997. It was a place of healing from all the loss she had experienced in her life. She soon threw herself into others. She and Peggy Blekkenhorst ran Divorce Care from 2000 to 2010, a program that impacted hundreds throughout the city. She was on various Prayer Teams and Ministries over the years – also a Sunday Greeter and Usher. From 2011 to 2017 she served on the Board of Elders. She encouraged many with her words, energy, life story and courage. She is missed by all at Redwood!
Gayle is survived by her sons Jody and Shawn. Mother-in-law to Geraldine and Terri. Nana to Robin, Derek, Douglas, Gregory, Beverly, Mitchell, Clifford, Luke and Zachary - Great Nana to Sophia, Bishop, Bentley, Bristol and Jane. Gayle poured much of her time and resources into her grandchildren over the years.
There will be a celebration (party) of Gayle’s life at Redwood sometime in the future when her son Shawn and Terri can return from their work in Africa. There will be many funny and poignant stories to share! Gayle’s only request was “that you cremate me and sprinkle me in the lake somewhere pretty (needs potassium anyway).” In her last years, she especially loved to sit in her car at the Marina Overpass lookout, with a Big Mac and Pepsi, looking out at the Big Bay. If you wish to donate in her memory, you could do so to Redwood Park Church marked “Care Ministries” (https://www.redwoodpark.ca/give), or to some nature/environmental cause of your choice.