Growing up in Alameda as the oldest of five children, Gail Shea was a girl scout, swimmer, cheerleader, choir member. She was a fiercely intelligent young woman who graduated from Alameda High and UCLA.
After UCLA she worked at a hippy publishing company, because books and radical ideas were her favorite things. She eventually became an editor at Mathew Bender Law Offices, where she met a lanky guy named Jeff who appreciated smart women, so she married him and stayed married for 34 years.
She and Jeff raised their three sons: John, Kevin and Brian while she maintained her successful career as a freelance technical editor. She loved to structure, read and speak words at a high volume. She used byzantine adjectives to describe quotidian events. If you weren’t reading two books a week you weren’t keeping up, and if you didn’t post online twice a week about a liberal cause, you were probably part of the problem.
Gail was the team parent of every team her sons played on, and her presence was always known. If you were within five miles of a local high school track between the years of 2000 and 2009, you heard her yelling one of her son’s names. She had a gift for projecting her voice above all others. The only thing louder than her words was her laughter.
She enjoyed making complex quilts for earthquake victims in Japan (pictured below) while cooking gourmet dishes for 10 people and cranking up Van Morrison. She enjoyed making her backyard garden into a hippy paradise and illegally planting California poppies at the Albany Bulb, though if you know anybody in the Albany Parks Department don’t tell them that. She was only able to dodge the authorities through her discretion.
She enjoyed her little dog Riley, because he is the greatest dog to ever live.
She loved architecture, beautiful maps, the Berkeley hills, strong women, liberals, select conservatives, the poor, the city and people of Alameda, swimming, kayaking, taking Dramamine so she could go kayaking, ice cream, Mexican food, telling people her opinion, mystery novels written by Scandinavians with hard-to-pronounce names, crying at the sight of homeless people and the play Hamilton, which she saw recently and was more than willing to slip into any conversation about it.
When she walked into a room you knew it. Now that she has left, we are all less for it.
Her celebration of life will take place at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley, this Sunday, March 3, from 1 to 5 p.m. All are welcome.