Gail Dumas, a longtime resident of Greenwich, died on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at the home of her son John in Clermont, Fla., after a five-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 83 years old.
Gail was known to Greenwichites as a teacher of Boutelle method exercise classes, a Cos Cob Library assistant, a devoted member of Second Congregational Church, and a muse to her late husband, Jerry Dumas, a cartoonist and writer.
Her offbeat one-liners, swift comebacks, and unique turns of phrase often found their way into Jerry’s humor pieces and comic strips (he wrote and drew Sam & Silo, and wrote gags for Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois, among other strips). Gail and Jerry were married for 58 years, until his death in 2016.
Gail was born in Yuma, Ariz., on Dec. 15, 1937 to George and Gladys Edwards Gaskin. She spent most of her childhood in Phoenix, where George founded Capital Lumber Co amid the cotton fields west of the city.
One day during Gail’s freshman year at University of Arizona, in Tucson, she was assigned to greet visitors at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house. In walked Jerry, who had driven down from Arizona State in Tempe for a date with a sorority elder.
While waiting for his date to descend, Jerry took rapt notice of Gail: “This girl had large dark brown eyes, high cheekbones, and she seemed sensitive and intelligent, and she had finely structured collarbones.” Jerry wasted no time. Before his date made her entrance, he had asked Gail out.
They married on June 21, 1958, and set up house above an appliance shop on Greenwich Avenue. The following year they bought a tidy brick Cape on Halsey Drive in Havemeyer Park, and into it were born three sons, David,
Timothy and John. In 1968 Gail and Jerry built their dream house on Crown Lane, which in those years seemed a wilderness of apple trees and field grass.
Over the decades on Crown Lane they planted vegetable gardens (Jerry’s domain) and flowers in profusion (Gail’s), and led a rich social life full of friends, inspired talk, and laughter.
At various phases in her life, Gail loved to play the piano, sew clothing from scratch, and teach English to speakers of other languages. Her love of swimming, reading, crossword puzzling, cooking (especially Mexican), moon-gazing, and sipping “a little glass of wine” (usually on the patio at sunset), carried through all eras, as did her habit of writing letters to friends near and far. Gail was also an avid donor to almost any worthy cause that crossed her path, and she particularly enjoyed sponsoring foster children.
Though grateful for her good fortune in life, the things she treasured most were invariably simple. From a note to a friend, found among her papers: “I’ve had so many blessings in the last few hours… sitting next to you in church…
picking hydrangeas in the garden… waking up at 2:15 to a bedroom full of moonlight…”
In later years, she took great joy in her granddaughter, Emilie, who called her “Mamette” in the French manner, and who would join her at the kitchen counter (if she was baking something sweet), at church, and for book-reading
sessions on a sunny patch of rug.
In September 2019, as Gail’s Parkinson’s worsened, she went to live with John and his wife, Sonya, at their tranquil house on the shores of Lake Minnehaha. There she received loving professional care from Sandy Nathoo and
Savi Sital, to whom the family is forever grateful.
Gail leaves sons David of Woodbury, Timothy of Easton, and John; their spouses, Vinton McCabe, Maria Dumas, and Sonya Dumas; granddaughter Emilie of Easton; sister-in-law Jean Rae Gaskin; and several nieces and nephews, including Christie Gaskin Darby, Scott Gaskin, Wendy Gaskin Mulvihill, and Susan Dumont Kiker.
Donations in Gail’s name can be made to Second Congregational Church, 139 E. Putnam Ave., Greenwich, CT 06830. A memorial service will take place there on December 10 at 1:00pm.