Gretchen (“Gigi”) Diehl Douglas, 79, of Williamstown, MA passed away peacefully June 27 at her home, surrounded by her family and friends.
Born on November 3, 1938 in York, PA to James Emory Diehl and Mildred Heisler Diehl, Gretchen graduated from York’s William Penn High School in 1956 and attended Bucknell University, after which she moved to New York City. She was employed by McCann Erickson Advertising where she met her first husband, Edward Gallagher. Moving to William Morris Talent Management, she eventually worked for Simon & Garfunkle’s personal manager. Those two singers, incidentally, gave Gigi her first, and perhaps her only, joint.
Gretchen’s career was put on brief hold while she raised her two children and three step children in NYC and then Manhasset, Long Island. She returned to the work place and at one point raised children ages 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 while working full time. She was an account manager for a small advertising agency and then sold advertising for Williams Broadcasting which owned several radio stations on Long Island. She sold so many ads that she was promoted to sales manager.
Gretchen moved in 1989 with her then husband Theodore Douglas to San Francisco where three of their five children lived. Gigi worked as social director at a nursing home, creating activities to enrich the lives of its residents, followed by a period as manager of the Cathedral School Shop, a vintage/consignment shop which under her creative vision became a must-visit San Francisco boutique.
In 2004 Gigi moved back East to be closer to family. She joined the congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church where she served as an usher and was a coordinator for Meals on Wheels. She was involved in dozens of activities, perhaps half for her own pleasure and edification, the other half in helping, directly or indirectly, other people. Her special gift was taking older people under her wing and acting as an advocate, helping them when their family members were not living locally. She was an avid walker. She volunteered at The Williamstown Garden Club, the Clark, for elder services at North Adams Commons, and the Berkshire Food Project in North Adams where for a short time before her illness she served on the board.
Gigi adored the arts: ballet, classical music, opera, theater and the cinema. She audited classes at Williams. She loved to travel throughout the U.S. and overseas – and found her way on these trips despite having no sense of direction whatsoever.
Gigi met her husband Dave on a blind date in 2009. Their love story defined the last years of her life. They were very busy: visiting fine hotels, inns and great restaurants on the east coast, went to Tanglewood, plays in NYC, cruises, museums, and a memorable weekend in Washington which included a formal reception at the White House. (Gigi to President Obama: “This is a great country where a Pennsylvania Dutch kid like me can be at the White House meeting the president.” POTUS to Gretchen: “And a great country where a kid like me can BE that president.”) Dave taught her to love basketball but couldn’t sell the Red Sox or soccer.
After her diagnosis of brain cancer in 2015, the family determined to keep her at home throughout her illness. An outstanding group of home health aides and, in her final year, an equally outstanding team of hospice workers, made this possible.
Gigi is survived by her husband, David Fehr, her sister Susan Chubb, her children, Michael Gallagher and his wife Catherine and Elizabeth Gallagher Heilman and her husband Alan. Also her step children Theodore Douglas and his wife Despina, Alexandra Douglas Cabral and Samuel Douglas, and her adored grandchildren Timothy Gallagher, Katherine Gallagher, Miles Douglas and Zachary Douglas.
FUNERAL NOTICE: There will be no visiting hours. There will be a funeral service on Friday July 6, 2018 at 2:00 PM at St. John's Episcopal Church, Williamstown with a Celebration of Life to follow at the Williams Inn. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to one of the following: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown; Berkshire Food Project in North Adams, or Hospice Care in The Berkshires in care of FLYNN & DAGNOLI-MONTAGNA HOME FOR FUNERALS WEST CHAPELS, 521 West Main St. North Adams, MA 01247. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.