Robin Gail loved her work pasting up the newspaper in the days before production went digital. She was a proud member and leader of the Typographic Union at The Press Democrat. But when technology forced her to retire, she found renewed meaning as a minister.
Her many friends said she was someone with a gentle voice that carried far, whether delivering a message in local churches, serving her union, delivering pastoral care and support as a chaplain, writing about issues in local publications or standing up as an advocate for women’s and LGBT rights in Sonoma County, something she did for many years.
Gail died Friday at a Santa Rosa hospital of injuries suffered when her car rolled over not far from her longtime home in Windsor on the day after Christmas. She was 76.
“She was a person who just felt like living the authentic life. She needed to be as present with who she was, just as she was,” said friend Georgia Prescott, a fellow civil rights activist and former executive director of the Sonoma County Council on Aging who, like Gail, followed a calling into the ministry later in life.
Born Judith Robin Gail in March 16, 1940 in Omaha, Nebraska, she moved with her family to Wyoming and later to Billings, Montana, where she graduated from high school and attended Rocky Mountain College.
She later transferred to the College of Idaho, where she studied English. After graduation, she came to California and was a pioneer in the counter-cultural rebirth of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, where she had her own boutique.
In the late 1960s, she moved north to Sonoma County and worked at a small newspaper in Cotati before getting a job at The Press Democrat in the production department, back when stories were pasted by hand onto pages of the paper. She served as shop steward for the Typographic Union.
While working, she began her ministerial studies through the Church of Religious Science, now known as the Centers for Spiritual Living.
After she was ordained in 2003, she assisted with the ministry at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa and later with Global Heart Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa, serving with the Rev. Mary Murray Shelton.
Shelton said Gail was quiet and a good listener but could also be feisty and funny and firm in her opinions.
She developed the church’s pastoral care program, devising and overseeing training, including writing materials.
“She had a high degree of compassion for people who were in need or disenfranchised or suffering. It’s what motivated her to take on pastoral care and to be available for people who were hospitalized or at home with limited transportation and resources. She met people where they were. Whatever their spiritual beliefs, she was able to support them,” Shelton said.
In recent years, Gail was a frequent guest speaker and head chaplain at Unity of Santa Rosa.
Gail also was a writer, both creative and for causes, and for seven years published “Runes,” a periodical for the lesbian community.
A memorial service is planned sometime within the next few weeks. The family suggests donations may be made in her name to Unity of Santa Rosa, 4857 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa, 95403.