I got word yesterday that Gail had passed. Gail. I saw her face before my eyes. Full of light. Always so full of light.

Gail became a volunteer with the Sewing Machine Project several years ago. She loved tinkering with old sewing machines. Not much use for the high tech, fancy ones, she preferred working her magic on old, solid, metal machines. She personified them–old women. She’d talk to them, “oh look at you! Let’s get you all fixed up,” she’d murmur as she carefully looked over the machine.

When Gail asked if she could work on machines at home, I said “of course.” Typically working in a group around a table, checking machines together, Gail found that she could focus more when sitting at her workbench at home. She would call me when a machine was finished and ready for drop off. Lifting the cover to reveal a gleaming metal machine, I’d take note of the tiny tag that Gail would attach. Like a sculptor, chipping away to find the art a stone reveals, Gail would glean the personality of a machine as she worked on it. By the time the machine was clean and whirring away, it had gained a name. Pearl, Rose, Gail would write the name on the attached tag along with a few sentences about what made the machine so unique and lovely. Like people, Gail saw the beauty in each and every one.

Gail was mindful of her community. With an interest in and connections to Wisconsin’s Amish communities, she’d keep her eyes peeled for machines on our shelves that could be converted to treadle machines. She would pick them up in her truck and deliver them to her Amish friends.

Gail, your presence in this world brought joy to so many. You reminded each of us of our uniqueness and beauty just as you did with the old Singers, Dressmakers, and Vikings that you worked on. With your kind eyes and generous heart, you reminded everyone you touched to grow larger, to see deeper, and to love more. We will miss you.

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